Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 27.
There's no other way to say it.
It's the second most stressful life event, after the death of your spouse, according to the American Institute of Stress.
So if you're thinking about getting divorced, preparing yourself financially and emotionally can help make the process a little less traumatic.
And while there is always drama, know this: you don't get more money, because your spouse has an affinity for young blondes. A judge generally can care less. It's about money and your state's laws.
Consider this process one big financial transaction in which you attempt to split your lives evenly.
So find a support system to work through the drama.
And then get serious.
Think About Your Tax Situation
Your marital status on December 31 determines how you file your tax return.
So if you get divorced on December 20, you are considered single (or head of household) for the entire year. That may make a difference in your planning.
"You may need to change your income tax withholding on your paycheck from married filing joint to single," says Tracy Stewart, a CPA, whose practice specializes in divorce. So think that through.
While there are no tax implications to child support, alimony is taxable to the receiver. The person paying it will get a deduction for it. So again, consider this in your planning.
And check out IRS Publication 504: Divorced or Separated Individuals for more details.
Gather ALL of Financial Records
"Divorce cases are a trail of documents that become evidence in a courtroom," says Vikki Ziegler, celebrity divorce attorney and founder of www.divorcedating.com.
So make sure you have access to everything: bank account statements, retirement records, deeds, mortgages, credit card statements, car loans, tax returns, etc. It's all relevant to your divorce.
And make copies of everything before meeting with an attorney.
"Not all spouses react well to being served with divorce papers, and some will make it difficult to access documents after you've filed," says Ziegler.
You will also need to create a marital budget, so the more you know about the income, assets and debts of your marriage, the better off you'll be.
Understand Your Assets
Start thinking about your assets and what they might be worth in the future, says Bill Fleming, managing director in the Private Company Services group at PwC.
And it's more than houses and property.
Understand your security holdings, especially your unrealized losses and gains. "It's best to split each holding, but you'll need to consider both before-tax and after-tax values," says Stewart.
Are there investments in hedge funds? Private equity groups?
Start working with you broker or accountant to get an idea of all this now.
Don't Move Yet
"Do not move out of the marital home without talking to a lawyer first," says Ziegler.
Leaving the house without a good reason could cause you to lose access to it altogether.
So stay put. And if your spouse is violent, protect yourself and your children by filing a temporary restraining order and calling the police.
Start interviewing attorneys. Find someone who suits your style and approach. You're going to be spending a lot of time together, and you have to trust this person is going to do everything she can to fight for you.
Look, no one wants to think about divorce. But no one wants to be blind-sided either.
So get past the drama, and prepare yourself.