Guide for a Wise Divorce

If you are considering divorce, please read this to help you not make the same mistakes that others have made, and contact us before taking action.

Introduction

This article will not be able to cover all aspects of divorce, but at least it can be a useful “first aid” list.

This document will introduce most aspects of divorce between Jews and non-Jews; but the emphasis will be on divorce among couples where both sides are considered Jews.  Mixed marriages involving another religion or without religion, cannot or do not need to go through the “get” process in the rabbinical court. These type of divorces are done solely through family court without the intervention of the Rabbinic Court.

A divorce (Legal Separation) process is necessary when the couple is Jewish but could even be necessary if the couple has never been “officially” married (A “Get” for the sake of the doubt).

The nationality of the spouses will only matter if they are both not Israeli citizens, and International Jurisdiction is sometimes a key issue in a divorce involving people with different nationalities and residency.  Residency and nationality are two separate issues and they both could have a crucial influence in the final decision regarding the court’s jurisdiction (in which country the case will be handled).

Before making the decision to divorce

You should ask yourself some preliminary questions before taking the decision to get a divorce.  Divorces are always somehow traumatic for you, your partner and unfortunately for your children (when you have children with your partner and even children from a previous marriage that ended in divorce).

The following is a very short and partial guide of questions you should examine before making a final decision to get a divorce.

  1. Am I sure this is the right decision for me?
  2. Am I being emotional and irrational, causing me not to be consistent in my decisions?
  3. Do I have another option I should seriously consider?
  4. Have others influenced me with my decision – family, friends, enemies, my financial situation, rumors I have heard, insecurity, low self-esteem, etc.?
  5. If the reason for a divorce is “religious”, did I seek answers for these doubts I have? Did I ask the right questions to the right people? For example, to the Rabbi who knows me well?
  6. Am I ready to put the future of the children in jeopardy?
  7. What will be my financial situation in the future?
  8. What are my alternatives? Are these real alternatives?

Do not be fooled: There are limitations to everything in life.

  1. Continuing to be miserably married and unhappy is not a solution.
  2. Living under threat, humiliation or physical and verbal violence is not a viable option whatsoever.
  3. Living without autonomy is not a solution. You have the full right to make your own decisions in your life.

You have an obligation to ask yourself these and other questions before entering the divorce process.

After making the decision

From the moment, you decide the only solution is divorce, do not waste any more precious time. Every hour counts and each of your next moves you take will make a difference; influence the process and thus the outcome of the process.

Your new set of problems to be solved has just begun – do not be discouraged, it is the beginning of a new era.

Do not be fooled and do not be surprised by the reaction and attitude of your spouse. From the moment she/he becomes aware of your decision, everything can change and often you will find a “new partner” who you do not recognize; a partner who may be against you, who will think only of how to take from you the maximum and give you the minimum, a partner who only thinks of himself or herself first. You may be surprised with the change of attitude! You will wonder and ask yourself: “How could I have married such a person?”

It is not uncommon for the spouse to escape and leave the country without the partner’s knowledge; to lose money in games or in “business” so she/he can claim: “there is nothing left for me to give”.

The first steps may have  tremendous influence on the outcome of the divorce. It is up to you to make the first and right steps as accurately and quickly as possible.

What do you do after making the decision?

Now that you are already being assisted by a professional (a lawyer who specializes in divorce law and not another type of “helper”), begin to plan your next steps.

Below you will find a partial list of steps. It is important to take action!

  1. Act quickly and remember that in Israel the first to open the case may have a partial advantage because of the problem regarding Jurisdictions (“Meiruts Samchuioit“).
  2. Keep complete Secrecy! Do not tell anyone, be careful, do not volunteer information and do not let yourself be surprised.
  3. Caution and patience are extremely important.
  4. Keep your documents away from home. Make copies of any document that can be used in the future.
  5. Save any recordings, letters, and e-mails in a safe place. It is always advisable to back up your documents on your computer off-site and change passwords.
  6. Being married, you can still enjoy the marital assets (consult a lawyer before).
  7. Make an accurate inventory of your common property – Your jewelry and “personal belongings” will not be divided.
  8. Write everything down; keep a diary of everything that happens (especially strange things that you do not understand).
  9. It is advisable to make a Will/Testament immediately (anything can happen in life).
  10. Try to reach some kind of general agreement taking in consideration everyone’s needs will avoid future legal battles but keep in mind the need for a “Plan B” in case something goes wrong.

What not to do after making the decision (Partial List)

  1. Do not try to be your own lawyer.
  2. Do not listen to the advice of non-lawyers in an attempt to save money when it comes to representation. You need a good professional to secure your future.
  3. Do not try to make a separation agreement without legal representation even if you are both in total agreement. You may not need a lawyer for the case itself, but you need one to write an agreement in accordance with the law; one that will be accepted by Family or Rabbinic Court.
  4. Do not sign anything if you are not sure you understand the real meaning of what you are signing.
  5. Never take any action against your spouse without receiving legal assistance before doing it!
  6. In case of violence do not think twice, seek help immediately. Do not wait for anyone and do not listen to anyone. Your life and well-being come first.
  7. Avoid the help offered by the social services. This could be your most serious error therefore, do not seek help from the Social Services before you consult a good lawyer.

Popular myths

Do not believe myths and remember that myths have been created with some purpose in mind. In court, you will deal with the laws and not the myths.

  1. Children born outside marriage, no matter what the circumstances (there are some extremely rare exceptions) are entitled to receive alimony.
  2. The wife who betrays her husband does not lose her rights automatically.
  3. No husband can force the partner to do a DNA test even if you have questions/doubts about the paternity of the child!
  4. Alimony is for children and not for the spouse (the wife), but the wife could be entitled to a certain period of alimony until the divorce is finalized.
  5. The rabbinical court will not always be the best resort for the husband, sometimes it is just the opposite. It varies from case to case.
  6. It is not enough to open a divorce lawsuit in the Rabbinic Court. The process must include everything (“Kriha“): Separation of property, alimony, custody, etc. but depending on the case it can be done in parallel in the Family Court
  7. The property can be divided and the alimony stipulated, even before the “Get” is given!
  8. You are an inheritor by your spouse’s Will/Testament. Remember that your spouse may have made another one in secrecy. In this case, the most recent will be the valid one. In case of death, the spouse may have stipulated that his/her share (half) will go to whomever he/she wants – even a lover.

Emotions

Your biggest enemy could be your emotions. Find below a short list of subjects related to the emotions that will influence the process of divorce.

  1. Do not let your emotions get the better of you. You will need to be rational and coherent.
  2. Think of long-term and not short-term! Life continues after divorce.
  3. Always remember that there is no absolute truth or justice; you will need some flexibility in this process.
  4. Couples break up (generally) because they are not happy and not for revenge or to get richer. By contrast, usually the financial situation deteriorates with the separation and everything gets more complicated.
  5. Do not be fooled by “crocodile tears” or “threats from the spouse”. The less emotion involved the more likely you will benefit from the situation.
  6. Never, but never, incite children against the spouse. No matter what emotional state you are in now, never speak badly of your partner with the children.
  7. Children should be outside the arena of struggle between you two. Remember that walls have ears and you do not want the case to reach the “wrong ears”.
  8. Do not get depressed and try to leave the stage of “denial” (cannot stand going through this any longer, he does not want a divorce, etc.). The quicker you accept reality, the better off it will be for everyone.

Remember to “play life” from the moment you make the decision to separate. How do you play the game “life”? You live your own life and she/he lives her/his own. From now on, you take care of your well-being!

You are not alone – contact us for help.

This post is also available in: pt-brPortuguês (Portuguese (Brazil))