The Divorce Agreement
The nature of the divorce agreement is that it regulates the separation of a couple in a legal way.
Is this similar to a monetary agreement?
No, while the purpose of a monetary agreement is to regulate monetary issues between a couple while they are living together, a divorce agreement regulates the legal relationship of a couple at the time of separation.
What should be included in a Divorce Agreement?
1. Basic agreement to divorce and to live separately.
2. The matter of custody of the children, namely, which of the parents will serve as custodian at the time of separation.
3. The matter of maintenance for the children, namely the monetary amount that the parent who is not custodian will pay the custodian parent for the maintenance of the children.
4. Visitation arrangements and the connection with the parent who is not custodian of the children.
5. The matter of property, namely, the way in which the property which the couple has accumulated in the course of their married life will be divided. This includes the apartment, social benefits accumulated by one of the spouses, the savings, vehicles, etc. Also, how any debts which the couple accumulated will be divided.
At the same time it must be emphasized that contrary to the matter of custody and property, the visitation and monetary arrangements (items 2 – 5) on which there is agreement are binding on both spouses. The matter of the divorce contract (known as a "Get"), in component 1, is according to the sole authority of the Rabbinical Court and isn't enforced by the regular court, despite the fact that it is mentioned in the agreement.
6. The matter of maintenance for the woman and her "Ketuba" (religious marriage contract) after the divorce. Generally the couple agrees that the woman will forego her "Ketuba" and the maintenance specified in it.
What are the factors of litigation most often at issue in the Regular Court and the Rabbinical Court?
The disputes and the need for legal rulings arise out of any difference of opinion between the couple on one or more components of the separation, for example: the amount of maintenance that will be paid for the children, the way the property is divided, the parent suitable to be custodian etc.
In these cases, when the couple and/or their legal representatives do not reach agreement, the court will make a decision on the disputed issues.
Is a signature on the Agreement enough for it to have the force of law? No, the divorce agreement, and/or any monetary agreement, does not take force until it is ratified by a judge of the family court or by a Rabbinical Judge of the religious court in the presence of the couple, without the presence of the representatives.
Can a couple compile an Agreement by themselves?
Yes there is nothing to stop a couple compiling their own Agreement. However this could prove to be very dangerous unless they are fully aware of their rights and the steps that have to be taken to enshrine those rights in the Agreement. A “do it yourself” Agreement could turn out to be disastrous for one or both of the spouses. It is always advisable to be represented by a qualified lawyer, especially in anything relating to the separation and to the divorce, an extremely complex and sensitive matter.
Boaz E. Gork, Adv.