When my marriage abruptly ended during January of 2012, little did I know I was about to become a statistic or should I say a cliché. That’s because January is known as Divorce Month.

In actuality, the most popular months, according to research recently conducted by Brian Serafini and Julie Brines at the University of Washington, are March and August. That may mean January is the time when those dissatisfied with their marriages possibly start thinking about divorce and set the proverbial ball in motion, giving the month the bad reputation it has.

Whether you are the one who is being left or the one who is doing the leaving, I offer five ways you can prepare yourself and your family for a divorce. The good news is, the time of year you implement these tips doesn’t matter. The bad news is, you may need these tips soon. So, without further adieu, here they are.

1. Find a lawyer. If you suspect that your marriage is coming to a close, or have recently been taken by surprise, like I was, your first course of action should be to seek representation. Hiring a lawyer isn’t a decision to be taken lightly so be prepared to devote time to the process. Ask for personal recommendations from those you trust and whose opinions you value. Then interview a few different attorneys to make sure you are comfortable with their approach and with them. After all, you may be spending a lot of time together.

2. Consider hiring a forensic accountant. If you or your spouse own a business or he or she is not forthcoming with details about money or assets, consider hiring a forensic account to assist you with researching your full financial picture. Better to have all the facts before your divorce is final than face a post-judgment inquiry.

3. Determine your spending. Your lawyer and forensic accountant, if applicable, will require a detailed report of your monthly expenditures before being able to advocate on your behalf. If you were not the one responsible for paying the bills or, even if you were but did not keep detailed records, putting a report together may require doing research. Leave yourself enough time to compile the information you need and assess where there are holes.

4. See a mental health professional. Ending a marriage is complicated and is a process fraught with intense emotion. And that’s before you bring in the lawyers. Keep in mind that your attorney is not your shrink and that he or she is there to serve a distinct function, which is to extricate you from your marriage with as little acrimony as possible. No matter how hard you try, even in those “best case” scenarios, I can all but guarantee you will experience periods of extreme stress and wish you had unconditional support and a nonjudgmental shoulder to cry on. A mental health professional is trained to do just that. Having a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or combination thereof in your corner can make a bad experience a little more manageable. Seek personal recommendations and find the person who makes you most comfortable. Don’t be afraid to switch providers until you do.

5. Enlist support. Reach out to friends and family members for emotional support, even if it’s only a friendly ear you desire. Be specific as to your wants. If you are comfortable, think about joining a divorce support group in your community so you can meet others who are similarly situated. If you cannot find a divorce support group in your town or city, there are many reputable online communities such as DivorceForce to provide you with valuable information about the divorce process as well as connect you with like-minded individuals and a wide-range of divorce professionals.

Regardless of the month in which you begin divorcing, there is a world of resources out there to assist you. All you have to do is ask.

Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at [email protected] or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.