When you make the difficult decision to ask a spouse for a divorce, it’s often the result of lots of deep contemplation, self-reflection, and weighing pros and cons. It’s a highly emotional process, and it can take months or even years to reach a decision.

As cold and detached as it may sound, it’s extremely important to do some serious practical planning and preparation in addition to the soul-searching before you make your move. Having your affairs in order and documents prepared can not only cut down on the time it takes for your divorce proceeding to wrap up, but it can reduce stress, which can be a massive relief when your emotions are running high.

Here are three things to do before you sit down with your spouse to have the big conversation:

  1. Get your finances in order. This includes determining your expected earnings and debts for the next six months to a year and making a budget that accounts for any reduction in income that used to come from your spouse. It’s helpful to begin gathering documents you may need, such as proof of income, credit info, and gathering bank paperwork in preparation for closing any joint accounts. It may also be helpful to open an individual account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Plan for your future living arrangements. Even if you are sure you’ll likely keep the house, it’s still a good idea to have possible backups. If you intend to be the one who moves out, it might be helpful to get your living arrangements ready so you can avoid the uncomfortable scenario of cohabitation. If that’s not possible, create a plan to distance yourself from one another while you live under the same roof.
  3. Seek support. That might mean finding a therapist, confiding your plan in a trusted close friend or relative so they can support you, and hiring an attorney to handle your divorce proceedings. If you suspect your spouse may react in a violent or volatile manner, this step is especially important.

Once you feel like you have a solid foundation in place, it can make it easier to move forward. Divorce is never easy, but getting prepared and organized early can help take some of the edge off..