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Divorce FAQ: 5 common questions

You get home from work one day, and the house is quiet. The kids are gone, presumably at a friend's house. Your spouse is waiting for you at the dining room table.

Before you even sit down, you know what's going on. When your spouse says that he or she wants a divorce, it doesn't surprise you. You've felt this coming for some time.

That doesn't mean you know what it's going to be like or what the process entails. To help, here are five questions people often ask, along with their answers:

1. Will adultery make a difference?

Your spouse cheated on you. You believe he or she is simply going to keep seeing the other person after the divorce. Does it matter? It may, at least in Massachusetts, where adultery is technically illegal. This is especially important if there are financial implications, like your spouse spending your assets to pay for the affair.

2. If you don't want a divorce, can you stop it?

No. Divorce is not something you both need to agree on. Even if you don't want to split up, your spouse can go to court and get a divorce without your consent. Rather than focusing on trying to legally stop the proceedings, which is impossible, it's best to focus on understanding all of your rights and options as you move forward.

3. Is a separation the same as divorce?

It's not. A legal separation is sometimes a first step that couples take, but the marriage remains legally intact. Even so, it may be wise to make up lists of assets -- such as those obtained before and after the separation -- to avoid confusion if it does still lead to divorce.

4. How much must one spouse pay for child support, alimony and things of this nature?

People always wonder about the money, but there's no solid answer for everyone. There are simply too many variables. These include how much you earn, how much your spouse earns, how long you stayed married, what needs your children have and far more. Every case is unique.

5. Who will get custody?

This also varies from one case to the next. Most often, courts aim to split custody, but they always focus on the children's best interests. They may take into account things like age, the strength of the relationship, living locations, peer groups, school groups, criminal activity and even the children's own desires.

Moving forward

Now that you know divorce is on the table, it's time to learn how to move forward. Make sure you understand your rights and what steps to take as the process begins.

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