You're going to file for divorce. Your spouse knows you're thinking about it, but nothing is official yet.

Before you file, you must prepare yourself for the upcoming process. Below are four things to do before you make that split official:

Close Those Joint Accounts

You don't want your soon-to-be ex to have access to your credit card accounts, for instance. You never know how people will react when you break the news. Take steps now to become financially independent -- something you'll need to do after the divorce, anyway.

Get Ready for Child Custody Proceedings

If you have kids, the custody proceedings may very well be the most important part of the divorce for you. Get ready. Decide what you want. Learn what the court looks for during a custody hearing. Find out about your state's custody laws and your parental rights. The more you know going in, the better.

Get Your Name Off of Joint Obligations

Closing your accounts and lines of credit is one thing, but you also want to start closing down your debts and other obligations. For instance, do you both have your name on all of the utilities? Whose names are on the mortgage? Did you take it out together? You may have to work with your spouse on some of this. If you're both on the mortgage, for instance, you'll likely need to sell the home or have one person refinance it. That may have to be done during the divorce, rather than before, though other bills can be changed in advance.

Think Outside of the Box

Really think about what life will be like after your divorce. What changes are coming and how can you address them? Think outside of the normal major concerns, like child custody and support. For instance, perhaps you and your spouse have a pet dog. Who gets that pet in the divorce?

Preparation

The key to a successful divorce is preparation. These four steps will help you get started. Don't just wade into divorce without knowing what you're doing, what rights you have and what legal steps to take.

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