Dina kept her head down and raised just her eyes up to the dais as a hush came over the court. She tried to read the expression of the man who was about to decide her fate. Years ago she had voluntarily put her future into another man’s hands and now, not only did Moshe want to divorce her, he wanted to take her home away from her too. Dina knew that sometimes judges get it wrong because this was her third appeal on the original court decision. She had been in this fight for her rights for three years. She was tired but she was also determined to get what she was entitled to.
The judge looked up first at Moshe, then at Dina. “Please stand,” he requested.
Who is in your corner?
Litigation (or suing your soon to be ex-spouse) for assets you are convinced belong to you, is a very difficult process to go through. Looking at this real case helps to illustrate how very important it is that you choose an attorney who has a deep knowledge and understanding of the laws and can help you choose the right court to file in (family or rabbinic) for your personal situation. These two things can have a huge effect on the outcome of your case. (TDC case 53079-06-20 -2020 Judges Chananel Sharabi, Sari Giosi and Esperance Alon. Dina and Moshe are not the real names of the litigants)
Dina’s lawyer had reassured her from the beginning that even if the judge decided in Moshe’s favor, they could appeal the decision. “Judges aren’t gods, Dina,” her lawyer had said. “Not even close. Sometimes judges get it wrong. And that’s why we have a legal system that allows for appeals. Like everything in life, if one is certain of being in the right, it pays to learn everything they can about the situation and stick with it until the end.”
The original 2017 ruling
In the course of the original court litigation in 2017, on the division of marital assets, Moshe’s lawyer had argued that the home was the property of Moshe’s business and therefore not the joint property of the couple. And so he claimed it was not subject to being divided between them.
Unfortunately for Dina, the Family Court ruled that the house was not subject to spousal division since, in actuality, it was bought by the husband’s company and was considered a business property. The judge did acknowledged, however that the house was renovated and improved out of jointly held funds and this fact obligated Moshe to pay his wife NIS 365,000 for half of the appreciation value
Did the judges get it wrong on the second appeal?
Neither spouse was happy with this ruling. Dina wanted more and Moshe felt she wasn’t entitled to anything. So they both appealed the decision and by mutual agreement, the case file was returned to the Family Court under a different judge.
The new judge also thought that the house belonged solely to her husband. But the fact was that Moshe had paid for it with money from the profits of his business which he had earned while they were married. Dina’s lawyer was sure that according to the law, she was entitled to half of that house. With her lawyer’s knowledge and support she decided to appeal again on the second ruling.
Third time’s the charm
With the judge’s instruction to stand, Dina pushed back her chair noiselessly and slowly rose.
“It’s our ruling that you each own half the property and therefore this asset will be divided equally between you.”
The judge went on to explain that their decision was based on three things.
- Even though the house was purchased from funds that belonged solely to the husband, it was nevertheless purchased during the marriage.
- Extensive renovations were undertaken using jointly owned money.
- The home served as the primary residence for the couple.
These facts indicated what is called, “intent of partnership”. In other words, the husband intended to share ownership of the property with his wife.
It had been a long arduous journey for Dina but she finally had closure. She would be financially compensated for her contribution to the marriage by retaining ownership of half the house. She could now begin to make plans for her future. After thanking her attorney for his dedication and guidance, Dina gathered her coat and bag and strode out of the courtroom toward her new life.