Whether your split is amicable or not, if you're separating from a mentally stable, otherwise reasonable person, there are steps you can take to keep it from going completely off the rails. Conversely, there are ways that the system is set up to be sure that it does... and all those ways benefit the system itself.
When I first split from my husband I consulted a divorce attorney—a litigator. I wanted to educate myself on my rights before going into the process. California is a no-fault state, so no matter who did what to whom, the laws are pretty clear: 50% of all assets or debts incurred during the marriage would be mine. The state even has a calculating program called the DissoMaster for figuring out support based on percentage of custody and the incomes of both parties.
Makes sense, right? My ex made more money than I did (I was a stay-at-home-mom, so he actually made all the money), so he would have to pay me child support and spousal support for a time.
Except then the litigator began to show me that if we slid the custody bar of the DissoMaster over, my support would increase. More custody for me meant more money from my ex. When I told the attorney that I wanted my son to see his father 50% of the time, that he was a great dad, and that I didn't want to take my child away from him, he scoffed.