Divorce can be one of the most stressful times in someone’s life. Ending a marriage causes emotional stress, disruption to your routine and your support system can cause additional stress, and the divorce process itself can be stressful if you are not prepared for it. However, there are steps you can take early in the divorce process to help minimize some of that stress and help the divorce process go as smoothly as possible.

Getting your documents organized before a divorce can help you process some of the changes happening in your life and can prepare you to focus your energy on the most important aspects of your divorce first. Having organized documents can also help you be more prepared for the paperwork component of the divorce process, and in some circumstances, it may even help you reach more favorable results in your divorce.

Make a list of what you need to find

Consider starting the organization process by making a list of assets, accounts and relevant documents you will have to find. If you are already involved in managing your family’s finances, this task may be completed quickly. However, if you are not involved with your family’s finances, it may take you some time to determine what documents may apply to your situation. Most lists should include financial account statements, real estate deeds, loan documents, credit card statements, wills, trusts and insurance policies.

Implement an organizational strategy

Once you find your documents, implement an organizational strategy. Try to group similar documents together, such as all home ownership documents or all estate planning documents. The goal of your organization should be to create a system so you can find important documents quickly, whenever they may be needed.

Classify assets as community or marital property

After organizing your important documents, it may be beneficial to list which assets will likely be treated as community property and which assets will likely be treated as separate property in your divorce. In general, most property that you acquired before marriage will be considered separate property, which means it will not be divided in your divorce. Separate property should also include any assets that you inherited before or during marriage and any gifts you received before or during your marriage. Marital property typically includes the marital home, retirement accounts and other property acquired during marriage.

Consider what you really want

After determining how your assets are likely to be classified, consider which marital assets are the most important to you. You may write a list that documents which marital assets you need, which assets you want and which assets you are willing to let go. An honest understanding of the items that are important to you can help keep you focused on what you want most when negotiating with your spouse.

By getting organized before your divorce, you can help prevent some of the stress that can pile on during the divorce process. Some of the stressors during divorce cannot be avoided, so it is usually beneficial to prevent any of the stressors that you are able to.