We've devoted many words here in Fooldom to how couples can manage their money most effectively. We've published The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples and Cash: How to Handle Money with Your Honey by Dayana Yochim, and we've run articles such as "A Financial Manifesto for Couples." But the sad truth is that not all relationships remain happy ever after. Divorce is a pervasive reality in our world, and for many splitting partners it's a painfully expensive one.

It doesn't have to be painful, though, if the separating parties agree on most matters and plan carefully.

Lawyers' fees can eat up thousands -- often tens of thousands -- of dollars in a divorce. The more combative and uncooperative one or more spouses are, the more drawn-out and expensive the divorce is apt to be. If you're divorcing and you and your spouse can reach an agreement on your own regarding how to divide your assets and how to assign custody of any children, you may be able to process much of the paperwork on your own via a "no-fault" divorce, costing you as little as $200 or less. Some online divorce websites offer to process divorces for several hundred dollars -- look into CompleteCase.com, RapidLaw.com, DocuPro.net, and LegalZoom.com. Nono.com and Divorcekitz.com may also be of interest.

Another big chunk of divorce change is taxes. If you sell appreciated assets -- such as your house or boat or shares of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Lucent (NYSE:LU), or Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) -- in order to divide their value, you'll likely be generating taxable capital gains. Here's where a professional may be able to save you money (though you may be able to learn enough on your own, via some targeted reading). Consider consulting one or more financial advisors to see what strategies they recommend. (We offer free guidance on how to find a good advisor, and check out our inexpensive financial advising service, TMF Money Advisor, too -- it offers real, live professionals you can talk to and you can try it free.)

As an example of one financial strategy, if you've lived in your home for almost two years, it might be worth sticking it out for a full two years in order to take advantage of Uncle Sam's home sale exclusion, which permits a person to exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains from taxes on the sale of a home (it's $500,000 for couples). There are additional rules, so learn more before proceeding. But you get the idea -- a little research and planning can pay off and result in a win-win outcome in a bad situation.

One more valuable resource is right here in Fooldom -- our Divorce -- All About It discussion board, which features nearly 2,000 posts from newly divorcing people with questions and experienced divorcees with answers and support. We've got discussion boards on all kinds of topics, many of them not too financial -- learn more about our acclaimed discussion board community and try it for free.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.