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I was asked to provide a women’s magazine some tips for stay at home Moms in Chicago that are going through a divorce. Here is the advice I shared which is valid for men and women.

1. Unless there was a pre-nup, remember that everything acquired during the marriage is a marital asset. So if your husband started a business, you own part of that.

2. Child custody and visitation is based on the best interests of the child. Don’t assume that because you’ve stayed at home with the kids that will get to continue. You need to document what you do with the kids in great detail as well as concerns about your husband’s parenting if you have any. If you have a child that plays soccer and your spouse hasn’t been to one of their practices or games, you need to note that. If you are the only one that helps with homework, make it clear. Don’t assume that custody is yours. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

3. If a divorce is sprung upon you, it can be shocking. But you need to start thinking long term about what you want out of life for you and your children. If you can’t start thinking about your life in 6 months, two years, 5 years and ten years then you could be setting yourself up for trouble. As best you can, take the emotion out of the situation and start thinking about your long term desires. That could involve where you want to live, what religion the kids will have, what you want to do if you go back to work, how you will feel if your spouse re-marries, etc. Goal setting is the #1 thing any person going through a divorce can think about.

4. It’s sad but true that being able to pay for the right lawyer can make all of the difference in the world. In many states, if you are a stay at home mom, your husband could be on the hook for your legal fees. But that’s no slam dunk and you should do whatever you can to save or borrow enough to have a proper retainer fee to hire the right lawyer for your case.

5. Don’t take legal advice from your husband. I’ve had many women (and men) call me in a panic, telling me that their spouse says they will get nothing and never see the kids again. Your spouse isn’t the Judge. Don’t take advice from them as they are not looking out for what is best for you. They are just trying to get in your head and you can’t let them.

Written by Michael Helfand