01/21/2015 04:44 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2015

Is This the Year You Get a Divorce?

You've been to counseling, talked with friends and family and agonized for the better part of a year over your decision to divorce. But just because it happens to be January, there is no way the timing on when to end your marriage should be confused with a New Year's resolution.

Because they're two very different things entirely.

So now that you're certain that you want to end your marriage, you're probably wondering how to plan for a divorce and what steps you can take to keep the proceedings peaceful, fair, cost-effective and child-focused so that you and your soon-to-be ex can (hopefully) remain friends and effectively co-parent your children...

Step 1: Learn Your Options

There are five options for divorce.

Choosing the option right for you and your children ultimately depends on a variety of tangible and intangible factors such as the complexity of your case, the relationship dynamic with your spouse and how child-focused you want your divorce to be -- among many others.

Some of the divorce options involve attorneys and some don't.

Involving attorneys is a matter of choice and situational circumstances.

And since divorce is very personal to the individuals experiencing it, every situation is different and there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Just because a particular divorce method worked well for a friend or co-worker, there is no guarantee it will work well for you. Conversely, if a particular option may not have worked for someone else, it doesn't necessarily mean it isn't a viable option for you.

So the first step in how to plan for a peaceful divorce is to learn about each of the five divorce options.

The option you choose will go a long way towards determining how peaceful, fair, cost-effective and child-focused your divorce will be.

Step 2: Inform Your Spouse of Your Desire to Divorce

Because you've been contemplating divorce for such a long time, you've likely had ample opportunity to process your feelings and make peace with your decision.

Your husband, on the other hand, probably hasn't had the same benefit of time.

Many husbands are in complete and utter shock when their wives tell them they want a divorce. So when it comes to informing your husband of your desire to end your marriage, you'll need to choose your time, place and words carefully.

How you tell your spouse you want a divorce will set the tone for how the rest of your divorce unfolds.

Some examples of what not to do:

  • Telling him you want a divorce and then walking away.
  • Placing blame or putting the failure of your marriage on him.
  • Giving him the news soon after a major life event such as the loss of job or death in the family.

Instead, try to start things off on the right foot by:

  • Being prepared for his reaction and compassionate if he comes at you with anger or resentment.
  • Letting him know you've given this a lot of thought and this is your decision -- and nothing can be done to change your mind.
  • Avoiding discussing the details of your divorce and instead, focusing on finding a professional to help you both through it.

When it comes to how to ask your spouse for a divorce, there is no simple answer.

But if you prepare ahead of time, you'll have a much better chance of keeping the divorce process as amicable as possible.

Step 3: Interview and Hire a Professional

Once your husband has had time to digest the news and is ready to begin the divorce process, it's time to find someone to help you resolve all of the relevant issues and guide you through your proceedings.

And just like the divorce method you choose, the professional you choose to assist you both will also play a major role in determining how peaceful, fair, cost-effective and child-focused your divorce will be.

A good place to start is with family and friends.

Did any of them get a divorce?

If so, were they happy with the divorce option they chose? Satisfied with their service provider?

If not, why?

Now is not the time to be shy. Ask lots of questions about their experience and if they would go the same route and work with the same professional if they had it to do all over again.

Next, you may want to search some online directories to find a few professionals to consider. There are a variety of sites specifically designed to help divorcing couples find service providers such as Divorce HQ, among others.

Find a few professionals who practice in your state and visit their websites so you can learn more about them. Once you've identified a professional or professionals, it's time to book an initial meeting and interview them.

You should know in advance what to look for and questions to ask.

Divorce is a very complex subject, so you need to be sure that the professional you work with knows the relevant laws, but is also equipped to help you resolve the many financial matters related to divorce.

You'll want someone who is compassionate given the sensitive and highly emotional nature of divorce, but also professional and has a proven process to keep things on track.

Be sure to choose someone you both feel comfortable with and who has the skills to help you achieve the peaceful, fair, cost-effective and child-focused divorce you and your husband both want.

Step 4: Choose To Have a Peaceful Divorce

Having a peaceful divorce is all about choices. Choices you and your husband must both make.

If you don't, you'll find yourself in an adversarial mess that will likely take years to resolve and bankrupt you and your kids financially and emotionally along the way.

So if this is the year you get a divorce, and you want things to be as amicable as possible, be sure to choose wisely.