Deciding Whether to Divorce with Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC
Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.
1. Family Law Fact or Fiction (1:11)
The purpose of this part of the show is to help dispel common family law myths circulating in the world. Wendy makes 3 statements, and your job is to decide whether each of them is family law fact or fiction.
Even if two parents share equal parenting time, one still may have to pay the other child support.
Fact. In Arizona, parenting time is just one part of the equation when it comes to child support. Another big part of the equation is the amount of income each parent earns. Depending on the income factor, one parent may have to pay the other child support even with an equal parenting time schedule.
When a child reaches the age of 12, s/he can decide which parent to live with.
Fiction. In Arizona, the wishes of a child are just one factor a judge has to consider in making orders about legal decision-making (custody) and parenting time. The wishes of the child aren’t necessarily the deciding factor.
When 2 parents share joint legal decision-making (custody), they share 50/50 (equal) parenting time.
Fiction. In Arizona, joint legal decision-making doesn’t necessarily mean equal parenting time. Custody and parenting time are two separate issues.
2. Deciding Whether to Divorce with Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC (3:13)
Deciding whether to divorce is one of the biggest decisions a person might ever face. It is never easy. In his practice, Jason deals with this issue quite frequently.
(4:26) Most of the time when Jason is talking to people about deciding whether to divorce, he usually only sees one individual (as opposed to the couple) coming to counseling because that person thinks they want a divorce. Jason’s practice is geared a lot towards men and men’s issues. When guys come in and they want a divorce, they may have just started to recognize feelings that they don’t want to be in the marriage. Sometimes the process to get to this point (of recognition) can take a lot time.
Do You Know WHY You Want a Divorce?
(6:00) When Jason meets with his clients, one of his goals is to help both himself and the other person identify the issues involved in wanting to divorce. Sometimes people come in and want a divorce, but they have no idea why that is. At that point, Jason usually feeds back to the client what it is that he is hearing. In some cases, after hearing Jason echo what he is hearing, people come to the realization that they actually DON’T want a divorce!
(7:22) A lot of times men withdraw and avoid women and the problems they are experiencing in a relationship. When men withdraw and disconnect, they then go to divorce as a solution. In fact, this isn’t the solution. This is not really dealing with the problem at all.
(9:44) Jason thinks that in some ways, we live in a culture or society that promotes things that are disposable. When we are fed up, we want to throw things out without putting the work into them. Divorce is so common in our consciousness, it is kind of easy to just blame the other person and throw in the towel. It takes a lot more investment to work on relationships because divorce is so much more acceptable than it used to be.
(12:15) Jason encourages people to ask themselves whether they know why they want a divorce. Sometimes people have become so reactive to some problem (an argument that is a chronic issue), then they want a divorce. Jason doesn’t think anything good can come from that.
Should You Bring The “Divorce” Word Up to Your Spouse Immediately?
(13:09) Wendy asks Jason whether a person should explore the possibility of divorce on their own first or get the spouse involved regarding this possibility right away. Jason says there is no clear cut answer here. However, a lot of people feel most comfortable working through this issue alone first. Once they have processed it and have clarity, THEN they can go to the spouse and talk about it. In other words, if you go to your spouse without being clear on WHY you want a divorce, you are really opening yourself up to reactivity (conflict) with the other person.
(15:46) Listen to yourself and know what is best for yourself. Introverts might need time to process things on their own before involving the partner.
Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before Moving Forward With Divorce
Question 1: Do you really want a divorce or are you just reacting to something?
(16:20) Recognize that very few people actually communicate with their marital partner as far as what their needs are in the marriage. Especially in the case of men, when their needs aren’t being met, they tend to withdraw out of frustration or exhaustion. Men (people) then feel they have no other option but to get a divorce.
Question 2: Are you effectively articulating your needs to your partner?
Are you able to do that? Do you need help stating your needs? If you can’t communicate effectively (because of fear, for example), get help before taking the plunge into divorce.
(19:17) Before running down to court and filing for divorce, be sure to talk with your spouse and make sure s/he knows and understands your needs which aren’t being met. You don’t want to jump into divorce without giving the partner the opportunity to start meeting your needs. Communication is huge!
(20:44) Wendy asks whether men and women actually “speak” a different language because of the difference in sex. (As John Gray stated in his book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus“). Jason believes we all have the same fundamental needs – the need for love, affection, to be cared for, and to be connected with someone. Jason believes those needs supersede some of the theories contained in certain books.
(21:56) Question 3 (the biggie): Are you sacrificing your own personal needs because of the needs of your children?
Your children are smarter than you think. They know if you are hurting and having problems in the marriage. Consider whether you are doing something for your kids at the sacrifice of yourself. If you are doing it for your kids, consider seeing a therapist to help you work through this.
(24:47) Is it selfish to consider your own needs above the needs of your children? Ask whether it is selfish to stay if it IS for the kids. In other words, if you try to push away your children’s pain or hurt, you aren’t allowing them to grow and thrive as human beings. Could this be considered selfish on your part?
(26:00) In the cases as described above, Jason really helps people work through whether or not leaving the marriage for the sake of the kids is selfish. Together, Jason and his clients look at belief structures (the people pleaser, martyr or victim) and help them figure out how they can meet their own needs.
(26:12) Wendy asks Jason whether he helps people who are staying in a marriage because of religious beliefs. In a case like that, you have to reconcile what you want out of a situation with those religious values that are in conflict. This reconciliation can apply to religious values OR the values of other people (like your parents). It IS possible to honor religious sentiments, but to move forward with what you want to do.
(28:16) You can be happy in spite of divorce and all the things that come with it.
(28:38) Question 4: What is life going to be like after divorce?
(29:04) You have to deal with grief because your marriage has died. The grief is the same as dealing with the grief of losing a loved one. You have a real connection with this person even if things didn’t work out.
(29:43) You have to learn to take care of yourself; manage the household, cook, run errands, manage a budget and keep up shop.
Other things to consider: dealing with friends, family and your children. (How will you deal with their questions?) You will have to learn to trust yourself and take care of yourself by getting the proper food and sleep. Way down the road, you will have to deal with being alone and/or dating.
(33:15) You can develop resiliency and get through these stormy waters. You can get through the darkest hours. You can come out the other side and find happiness.
(33:57) Finally, Jason says if you do choose to divorce, ask how you can help yourself in dealing with that by managing anger, resentment, etc. A great first step to managing your emotions is identifying what it is you are feeling. While this isn’t always easy, its a move in the right direction.
(35:35) You can find Jason through his website – phoenixmenscounseling.com. His blog contains tons of helpful articles. You can call Jason directly or book an online appointment, as well.
3. Thoughts From the Life Coach (37:08)
In today’s thought, James talks about living up to your dreams. Don’t be afraid to risk your temporary situation. Don’t be afraid to fail – that’s how we learn!