Divorce, more than likely, was not the plan when you and your spouse tied the knot. But now that you’ve come to a point where that is the next step, it’s best to have some things planned ahead of time. That may sound heartless and cruel, but early planning can save a lot of stress in the end. Divorce is stressful enough on all parties involved. Planning will make it easier on yourself and others by get some key things done beforehand.

It is absolutely imperative that you know all the details about your finances. Be sure to have a copy of all documents. It helps to have the documents in electronic format, kept on a CD or external hard drive storage so that you can take it with you easily. It’s critical to do this ahead of time because often is the case that these documents disappear once the actual divorce proceedings begin. Oftentimes these records aren’t the easiest found under the best of circumstances, so it’s a good idea to know ahead of time where everything is so that you have copies of your own. Be sure to have tax returns, bonus calculations, and W-9’s. Having these ready will help you know how to plan for division of assets.

Once those things are all in order, you’ll need to begin aligning your priorities. Know what’s most important to least important for you as to the outcome of all things. These things are similar to the financial planning step, except that they’ll also include division of time with the children and what the living needs are for them. What will you need to keep them as comfortable as possible during this difficult time? Do they need to stay in the same home? If not, what do you need in the way of furniture for them. Do you have a pension plan? Do you plan to hold on to it? Make sure you know the cost of such things as they will figure into the planning process as well.

There’s much to think about and be ready for ahead of time. The more prepared you are, the more smoothly things will run. This will be a high anxiety time anyway. Planning ahead can help alleviate a lot of that tension.