11/12/2015 10:54 GMT | Updated 11/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Thinking About Divorce? Here's What You Need to Know Fiirst

Picture what you think happens in a typical divorce and you'll probably imagine screaming arguments, tears, and broken crockery. The subject is wrought with emotion and pain, and if you've seen a divorce in a movie there's always plenty of drama.

The reality is often no-less emotionally distressing, but usually a great deal more prosaic.

What is remarkable is the number of divorce cases which get started after Christmas - for whatever reason, early January is the time when lots of people decide to get started down the path they've probably been considering for a long time.

And that's what I most often see. No shouting. No drama. No life-changing affairs. Just a marriage which has, often by increments unnoticed, irrevocably broken down.

That never stops being desperately sad, but what it does mean is that people are often reluctant to acknowledge their decision. Perhaps they don't even recognise it.

Most of the first meetings I have with people - men and women - who are considering separating from their spouse are characterised by guilt, uncertainty and self-doubt.

The most common reason for divorce is simply the relationship having run its course. Quite often there are few tangible reasons for that, and no real bad behaviour on either side. It can be one partner who's become distant and removed from the family unit because of an all-consuming career, and the other has lived for long enough with the isolation. It could simply be that the couple's interests have diverged and they no longer have anything in common. It could be a number of other reasons which might feel uncomfortably familiar for lots of people who are otherwise happily married.

What's important in the early stages is not to commit yourself to anything before you're absolutely ready. You should never feel that you can't change your mind at any stage (obviously up until a point).

Often before you decide you want to proceed, you'll have questions. If you have children, how will they be affected? Who will be their primary carer? Who gets the house? What happens to inheritance? How will I cope financially without my spouse? What will my life be like on my own?

Experienced divorce lawyers will be able to put your mind at ease on all of these points. That's not to say it will be easy but you should make sure that the process is as straightforward as it can be and that there are no surprises.

In cases where the couple have mutually agreed to separate and both parties are sensible in their approach to the practical and financial aspects, it's normally just a case of following the appropriate processes until the necessary paperwork is signed. That does rather reduce it to a fairly clinical exercise, but that's really the extent of it. You might be surprised at how straightforward it can be.

On the other side of things, unfortunately, affairs do happen and people are wronged in lots of other ways. In these cases emotions often run high and things can take longer to resolve, but ultimately what needs to happen is the same as it would be in a less contentious divorce. Each side has to eventually agree terms of settlement or accept the decision of a court .

It goes without saying that anyone entering into a divorce should ensure it's not a decision taken lightly, whatever the reason. Taking advice early, even if that means divorce is never pursued, is always the best option.

One way or another, it's important to understand your options if you do decide to go ahead.