Last week a lady, who is a celebrity, came into the office and told me that her husband decided that he wants to get divorced. They married nearly ten years ago and went through a number of crises, but suddenly, without warning, he decided to divorce.
She claimed that until now they had always managed to solve arguments on this scale over a cup of coffee, and suddenly – BOOM – he sent her an email that he decided to break up the marriage.
She said that during the last two years they had both been cautious in what they said to one another, and tried very hard not to speak out in the presence of the children, they really held in what they had to say. Even though they often saw things differently – they always knew that they had to safeguard the family unity.
What should we do?
In every case it is advisable to consult a lawyer before starting a divorce procedure or before submitting a request for arbitration. Divorce is a very complex process, and even if you tend to end up agreeing when there is an argument, it is important to take legal advice first. Any step you take now will impact years ahead. Any claim to change something in the agreement later will require proof that the circumstances have changed, and the chances of success are slim.
One of the major mistakes of divorcing couples is entering the divorce procedure without deciding on a clear strategy and clear objectives, even in the case of agreement. Do not approach the submission of a request for arbitration before consulting a lawyer. Full stop.
Does meeting with a lawyer mean you have to get divorced?
No. Sometines, after a meeting where the clients understand, once again, the legal and economic implications of divorce, and after weighing up the pros and cons on second thought, they prefer to try other avenues of dialogue and couples counselling that will lead to marital harmony. Usually, we encourage taking these steps.
Is it true that it is expensive to get divorced?
Yes, it is true. Running a home where two partners live is much cheaper than running two homes, with all its implications. Employing a divorce lawyer who will accompany you and protect your rights is not cheap, but it certainly pays off, and is essential, when considering what you get in return.
Is it true that I will have to leave and sell the family home?
The domestic home where the couple lived belongs to the two in equal shares, even if it is registered in the name of one of them. Obviously, the law comprises many different aspects and countless special cases. In most divorce cases, one of the couple remains in the house and “buys” the other’s share – with money or other rights that are due to them subject to property law.
Now that the new law regarding settling family disputes has been enforced – do you need a lawyer at all?
The Family Arbitration Law
obliges couples who have started divorce procedings to attend four meetings with professionals in order to examine if there is a chance to reach an agreement out of court. We believe in agreement. Usually there are points of contention that cannot be overcome. For instance, who will bring up the children and who gets custody? The domestic home and shared property? How much child support?
Mediation is an excellent solution in the case where the partners feel equal. In any case it is important to get advice before launching the process, especially if you suspect that the other partner has some hidden advantage. Agreement between two partners represented by a professional is much better than mediation where one partner gives in to placate the other: we believe in agreement from a position of being prepared.
How long does it take to get divorced?
It depends. If the partner is cooperative then a divorce agreement can be formulated within a few weeks. If a legal procedure is underway, in the Rabbinical Court or the Family Court (or both), the process could take up to a number of years.
With the launch of the Family Dispute Settlement Law, a divorce claim in the Family Court or the Rabbinical Court is further delayed by at least three more months, until it is possible to submit the claim, but participation in the dispute settlement process, itself, has implications regarding the perceptions of authority.
The predominant policy today amongst most of the rabbinical judge (dayan) line-ups is to differentiate between deliberations on the Jewish religious divorce document (“get”) and on all the other matters. In this way, a couple who have agreed to divorce are first granted the “get”, and only afterwards all the other matters are discussed. In this way, pressure is reduced from the long list of matters to be settled.