Filings for divorce are one-third higher in the first month of the year, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The spike is often attributed to delaying the end of a marriage during the holidays.

However, a divorce should not be based on the start of a new year, but on sound planning and preparation, which can help place a spouse in a better negotiating position on property division and other matters.

Before filing, spouses should consider the financial impact of divorce. They should also identify and locate their assets, consider their efficient division and plan for the care of their children.

First, a spouse should consider their tax status. January is a prime time for this because employers and financial institutions issue income statements and other tax documents to taxpayers during the month.

Next, determining the couple’s assets may reveal surprises, such as the amount of debt their spouse or the couple was carrying. For example, a spouse may have titled property in the other spouse’s name to avoid creditors.

Accordingly, a spouse should also collect documents concerning their income, assets, liabilities and expenses. These include bank, pension and brokerage statements and documents concerning real estate holdings.

A spouse should also review his or her own credit reports to discover any unknown debt. A spouse may have unknowingly assumed debt by co-signing loans or guaranteeing certain debt. This financial planning is also important for the children’s well-being.

Retirement plans and insurance policies should be studied to plan changes relating to the divorce and the children’s ages. For example, large life insurance proceeds that are paid to minor children as direct beneficiaries may be complicated and unwise.

In addition to financial planning, a spouse should also begin to consider their child’s emotional needs and focusing on their emotions during this stressful time for them. Restricting parenting time with the other spouse may be emotionally harmful and even harm the parent in a future custody order. This is an opportune time to plan the best way that the couple may be successful co-parents.

An attorney can assist a spouse with this planning and navigating the divorce legal process. Legal representation can help obtain a fair and reasonable divorce decree.

Source: The Huffington Post, “January: The month for divorce,” Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson & Alan Pevy, Jan. 13, 2017