Breaking up is hard to do. And if you're getting divorced, it can be tough on your finances, too. A marital split is often a long and expensive process, so before anything else, make sure it's really what you want, experts in the financial intricacies of divorce said.
Beyond the emotional costs, there are the often exorbitant legal fees, the added costs of suddenly living single, and the trials of untangling your soon-to-be ex-spouse's fortunes from yours.
If you find you've reached a point of no return in your marriage, there are some things you should do to help assure you don't lose your shirt when you lose your spouse, financial pros said.
One of the most important things is to be aware of what you've got.
"Very often we have one spouse or the other in control of the finances, and then when the divorce comes, the one in the dark is at a real disadvantage, because they just don't know what's there or how to access these things," said Ronald Sharp, a Michigan divorce attorney and author of the book "Winning the Divorce War: How to Protect Your Best Interests."
Make copies of every financial document you can find - wills, tax returns, statements from bank and brokerage accounts, 401(k) and other retirement account statements and recent credit card statements.
Papers like these sometimes mysteriously disappear, and getting lawyers to chase down the information can be tedious - and extremely expensive. Find out whose name is on the deed to the house and on the mortgage. If your spouse owns a business, find out how much it's worth.
While many people save for their wedding, few save for divorce, and they are often shocked by how much they end up spending on lawyers and other fees, said Lili Vasileff, president of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners.
Lawyers charge $175 to $500 per hour and can bill you for every minute of their time, including phone calls, Sharp said.
Minimize these costs by preparing as much information as possible yourself, financial experts said.
Make budgets ahead of time, detailing your fixed costs - things like your housing, food and medical insurance - and prioritize the rest of your spending, said Vasileff.
Then, make money available that only you have access to, Vasileff said.
If you're earning a paycheck and you're having it directly deposited into a bank account that you and your spouse share, open a separate account in your own name and have the funds deposited there instead, said John Mikhael, a financial consultant at Smith Barney.
Just because it's in your name alone doesn't mean you'll get to keep it all when the dust settles. But it will assure that those funds will be there when you need them - and you likely will.
Get your own lawyer, someone who specializes in divorce and comes recommended by friends or family, and get his or her fee in writing in advance, experts said.
Do a credit check on yourself so you know what debt is out there in your name and your spouse's. Your spouse may have opened a joint credit card account without your knowledge. "It's fraud, but these things happen," Vasileff said.
When a split seems imminent, close all credit card accounts you hold jointly with your spouse and open your own.
"I've seen women see their credit scores get demolished" by spouses who are either vindictive or simply bad with money, Mikhael said.
While the pendulum swings both ways, experts say women are more often the ones who are in the dark about their household's financial situation.
Decisions about alimony and property division are irreversible, so you might want to consult with a financial planner to make sure you get it right the first time.
Many women, emotionally and financially drained from a custody battle over children, will not put up a fight over finances, said Vasileff. That's a mistake, she said. "She gets the house and the kids, and he gets all the money."