Ruth Abrams explores the nuances of divorcing couples from the Jewish Community and explains why instructing an experienced divorce solicitor is key in ensuring a fair and agreeable outcome in terms of arrangements for children and finances.
I have acted for many Jewish clients in my career and in doing so it has always struck me that, for these clients in particular, family and faith is of utmost importance. Whether it is spending time together, celebrating religious festivals and landmarks in life or ensuring that after divorce the children of the family are fully provided for, one thing is clear - these issues will be an important feature in the divorce process.
This has, in my experience, led to certain nuances when advising Jewish clients during their divorce. Although every situation and couple have differing circumstances when it comes to arrangements for children; it may be that the non-resident parent will fight very hard to spend generous amounts of time with the children. This can result in lengthy and acrimonious proceedings through Court to decide the child arrangements. These arrangements also need to cater for important events in the Jewish calendar and to ensure that Friday nights in particular are spent with both families.
The importance of Friday night is also noteworthy from the perspective of the legal advisors as, where families are religious, they will want to be home before dark. In winter this can mean that a client is not contactable after 4pm on a Friday and this is something to bear in mind when urgent instructions are likely to be needed and it is advisable that when instructing a divorce solicitor that you consider their ability to meet your needs on your specific timescales.
Divorcing Jewish couples & Financial matters
From a financial perspective, some of the most generous financial settlements are often found amongst these clients. This perhaps reflects the cultural importance of ensuring that family (especially children) are fully provided for financially. I have often been asked why child maintenance should stop for a child after they have finished their education. Many of my clients (both payers and recipients of child maintenance) consider it to be appropriate and expected that children will continue to be provided for financially when they return home from university and it is not until they permanently leave home that this expectation ceases. Whilst this is not in line with the legal position, which is that a financial obligation to a child usually stops once they have completed full time education, many couples will agree between them to extend the financial provision beyond the legal requirement.
Divorce & planning for Bar Mitzvah’s or Bat Mitzvah’s
Another key feature is the Bar Mitzvah for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls. This is often a huge celebration at significant cost when a child reaches the age of 13. The cost of the party will typically be factored into a settlement as a capital need to be met in the future.
In terms of budgeting for future income needs, the costs of buying Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah presents for children of friends and family will be factored in, where there are children in the appropriate age range. Hebrew lessons, synagogue fees and charitable contributions (encouraged by the teachings of Judaism) will also be budgeted for.
Receiving a Get
In the Jewish faith, in order for a woman to be able to remarry she needs to receive a Get. This is a religious divorce. Without it, even if a woman has been legally divorced, she will still be considered within the faith, as married to her husband. As such she would not be able to enter into a further religious marriage to someone else and any new relationship would be considered adultery. It is therefore essential not to overlook this detail within the financial settlement. As part of the financial negotiation the wife's legal representatives will seek an undertaking from the husband that he will fully cooperate in the process of obtaining a Get.
In my experience, at the end of the divorce process, couples will do their utmost to maintain the family unit as best they can in the aftermath of divorce. This is, of course, never easy but it reflects the fundamental importance of family and family life, within the community.