When you stood with your new spouse under the chuppah (wedding canopy) you thought you would build a life together, have a home, raise a family. It’s incredibly disappointing to come to the point where you’re contemplating divorce, no matter what the reasons are. Your emotional well being, the effect divorce will have on your kids and your spouse’s reaction are all uppermost in your mind.
And then……there’s the money. Dividing a household financially is difficult at best and debilitating at worst. Add to that the fact that you and your spouse’s disparate feelings about money may very well be a contributing factor to your desire for divorce, and you have a potentially volatile situation.
That being said, there are steps you should be taking long before you ever file for divorce or file a motion to settle differences with your spouse, in order to ensure that you get the best financial results you are legally entitled to. It’s difficult at a time like this to focus on your financial future but it is incredibly important to begin preparing for the financial dissolution of your relationship if you are considering divorce in the next 12 months. And if you and your spouse stay together in the end, following these 10 steps will be helpful in coming up with a financial plan for your future together.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Once divorce is mentioned in a marriage, it very often happens that all sorts of documents, once freely available, start to disappear. By taking the following steps prior to divorce being filed or even spoken about, and making a file for each of the categories suggested below, you will have all the documents and evidence to fairly determine the final asset split and any support payments that will have to be decided upon.
Step #1: Proof of the assets you own. This list should include both liquid and illiquid assets (i.e. cars, real estate, banking and/or investment accounts, stocks, jewelry, etc.) The best proof is either a deed, photo of the asset or a copy of the account statements. In the case of household items like furniture and lawn equipment, receipts from purchase are best but if not available pictures will suffice. The general rule (and there are exceptions) is that all assets acquired during the course of the marriage are split equally.
Step #2: Make a spreadsheet or notebook page detailing when all of your assets (from Step #1) were purchased. Also note, if you can, where the funds to purchase them originated and in whose name they are registered. The date they were purchased may affect the division of the assets. This is especially true in the case of assets that were acquired prior to the marriage and/or by funds belonging to one party only and kept in a separate name. Have this information available to prepare for the best and worst case scenarios if you move towards divorce.
Step #3: Proof of income for both of you. This list should include: monthly pay stubs, (Form 106 from the Israel Tax Authority), bank transfers into your accounts, tax receipts if either of you is self-employed. Two things often happen during divorce. 1) The actual money from a spouse’s salary deposited in the bank suddenly diminishes. 2) The proof of income may just disappear. Either of these things can affect how child support will ultimately be determined – especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding child support in joint custody cases. Don’t get caught off guard. Make sure that you have one year’s past records available to you.
Step #4: Collect receipts from all of your monthly housing related expenditures.You should have receipts for: rent or mortgage, property tax (arnona), electric, water, gas, gardening, recurring repairs, etc. Child support payments in Israel are made up of three components, one of which is called madoor (housing). All of these documents (a year’s worth if possible) will go into the calculations of any child support payments.
Step #5: Detail all of your debts. This should include both the debts you and your spouse have jointly and the debts that either of you may have under your own names. This can be done either by getting legal documents – like in the case of a mortgage or loans made by family members – or by getting copies of statements for bank loans, etc. (It’s helpful to note that if your spouse got a loan from one of their family members and you had no knowledge of it, you may not be liable for it!) The general rule is that debts, like assets, accumulated during the course of the marriage will be split at the end of the marriage.
Step #6: Collect receipts from all the monthly expenses connected directly to your children. Gather the school fees, afternoon activities costs, medical and dental costs, clothing, etc. All these documents will be important in determining the final amount of child support awarded. Since men generally pay child support in Israel they vastly underestimate the costs while women tend to exaggerate the numbers. If you have collected these documents, you will know the real numbers and be able to accurately calculate what you will be paying or receiving for child support.
Step #7: Make a copy of any pre-nuptial agreements. Prenups are generally binding and applied by courts in Israel. It is important to have your prenup evaluated by a competent family law attorney before you take any legal actions, to determine if all or only certain parts of it are valid, and how it affects your particular situation. The earlier the better.
Step #8: Detail both of your pensions. All too often a judge, a mediator or an attorney will push the parties in a divorce to agree to each side keeping their own pension rights, because they are too lazy to do the work collecting that information. This is despite the fact that by law, any pension rights that were accumulated during the course of the marriage are to be split equally at the termination of the marriage. Sometimes these irresponsible actions have led to parties giving up rights worth hundreds of thousands of shekels. Don’t let this happen to you.
Step #9: Get a copy of your katoova (Jewish marriage contract). Remember that the katoova is a binding document. If your marriage ends, then in certain scenarios the amount of money payable to the wife in the katoova (the demei katoova) may become due and payable. Before anybody starts any actions, it is important to know what that amount is. And you will need the katoova for your divorce (GET) in the Rabbinic court.
Step #10: If your spouse is having an affair, collect proof of infidelity. Keep emails, whatsapp or sms messages, pictures, recordings, handwritten letters, receipts, anything that proves there has been infidelity. It is true that the Supreme Court has said infidelity is not supposed to affect the division of assets. And it is also true that there are many cases where certain “proofs” aren’t allowed to be admitted into evidence. That being said, in the case of a suit over money payable to the wife pursuant to the Jewish marriage contract (GET), it is always relevant. And in many other cases it can affect whether the family court judge or dayanim (religious court judges) issue rulings at the lower or higher end of the scales that they are weighing.
It’s worth noting that the person who files a Motion to Settle Differences first, is the person who gets to decide which court (Family or Rabbinic) hears which issue in divorce litigation (like child custody and division of assets).
Remember that filing a Motion to Settle Differences does not mean you have started a divorce. It is just a preparatory stage required before anybody is legally allowed to file for divorce. However, if you are afraid that your spouse is going to file this motion first, then you should contact an experienced family law attorney right away.
If you’re thinking of divorcing your spouse in the next year or if you think your spouse may want to initiate divorce against you, prepare yourself by beginning to collect the information above so you can have the best financial outcome after your divorce.
Protect yourself and your family. Take the first step towards planning your future by contacting us at Hait Family Law for a complimentary case evaluation or to have your questions about divorce answered.