Divorce is not instantaneous. In Washington, there is a minimum 90-day waiting period between filing papers and seeing the divorce finalized. In many cases, it can take even longer.

Your separation is impending, but not official. Your actions and decisions during this stretch can impact what’s to come, potentially in significant ways. It’s important to fully prepare yourself while avoiding mistakes that can later be used against you. Here are four things to consider during this delicate period.

Remain civil – in private and in public

Going through a divorce is one of the most emotionally challenging experiences one can have. But everything will be a little bit easier if civility is maintained.

That includes privately between you and your partner. Negotiations over things like a parenting plan and property division usually go much more smoothly if the sides can effectively communicate. Similarly, do not take to social media to vent about the divorce or your soon-to-be former spouse.

Be cautious with new relationships

The simple act of dating while waiting for your divorce to finalize (or an extramarital affair) generally won’t impact anything. However, there are some potential secondary effects.

If you’ve been seeing someone else for a while, and spent money on that person while still married, it could be a factor in property division. Also, if there is a perception that your dating life may be hurting your parenting, it does not reflect well upon you during parenting plan discussions.

Get your finances and paperwork in order

Paperwork is a huge part of any divorce. You’ll want to prepare well ahead of time to not fall behind the 8-ball. Create a file and gather important documents, such as:

  • Estate planning documents (such as a will, trust or power of attorney)
  • Bank account statements and information
  • Tax returns
  • Loan and debt records
  • Bills showing household expenses
  • Employment contracts
  • Insurance policies and retirement accounts
  • Pay stubs

The list continues on. Gather whatever it takes to create a clear picture of your financial situation and a thorough inventory of all assets. It’s also often smart to open your own bank account and begin implementing a budget that reflects your new circumstances.

Put your children first

The court takes parenting arrangements very seriously. It is, first and foremost, most concerned about the best interest of the children. You should be too.

While your divorce is pending, continue to be the best parent possible. Do not renege on any childcare responsibilities, now or any time in the future. Not only will it help during the divorce process, it will open the door for you to continue having a strong, long-lasting relationship with your kids.