As a divorce lawyer, I have met with countless clients who claim they were blindsided by a divorce. While they may have seen signs that something was wrong in the marriage, they chose to ignore them hoping that things would improve. In some instances, they might have even tried marriage counseling to no avail.

Divorces don’t simply happen overnight. In fact, there is often significant thought and some planning that occurs before one decides to proceed with a divorce. If you suspect that your spouse is contemplating a divorce, there are five steps that you can take to protect yourself.

1) Don’t Hide – If you suspect that your spouse is contemplating a divorce, it is better to know rather than hide from it. Confront him or her. Find out if there is really something wrong or is it truly your imagination. If there are problems, can they be resolved? Would counseling help? If things are as bad as you suspect, it is best to discuss them and possibly come up with a plan to try to part in a way that will cause the least damage to your finances and family;

2) Watch The Money – Become familiar with the location of your finances, understand your expenses and keep an eye on both. If money starts disappearing or spending increases, you need to take action. Ultimately, you may need to create separate bank accounts and/or cancel credit cards where you are the primary cardholder and your spouse has a secondary account.

3) Gather Information – It is easiest to gather the pertinent financial information needed for a divorce before the divorce is proceeding. After a divorce is filed, the filing spouse may remove financial information from the home or hide it away. While you ultimately will have the right to full financial disclosure in the discovery phase of a divorce, you can save some time and money by trying to obtain this relevant information before the case begins;

4) Seek Out Legal Advice – Do not rely on well-meaning family and friends to get the necessary information about the divorce process. Similarly, while there is a lot of helpful general information on the internet, divorce is state specific, so you need to focus on the legal process in the state in which you reside. Thus, it is worth the cost to visit a divorce lawyer for an initial meeting. During this time, you can learn about what the divorce process will look like, specific strategies that may work for you in preparing for a possible divorce, and understanding what you may ultimately receive at the conclusion of the divorce.

5) Build A Support System – Going through a divorce is can be devastating especially when it is unwanted or unplanned. Building a support system to guide you through this difficult process is critical. The support system is comprised not only of a lawyer who you can trust, but should include a therapist with whom you can discuss your feelings, perhaps a trusted accountant or financial adviser, and close friends and family who can provide moral support.

Being prepared for a divorce by following the tips above can make a world of difference when going through the process.