1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
For two years she has been trying to divorce him without success. His wisdom, looks and the Ph.D he was so proud of since graduating from medical school were not enough as he had an obsessive nature and a personality disorder. When she could no longer bear life with him she asked for a divorce. After repeated pleading from her, they agreed on seeking mediation but could not reach an agreement. Not because she did not want it or did not make many concessions, but because he was impossible. As in his everyday life, he presented himself as pleasant and cooperative, but in practice he refused to commit himself to anything. Every clause in the negotiated agreement was divided into more and more sub-clauses that were discussed each meeting anew and each time something was agreed upon, he would bring up three new related issues. With a smooth tongue and pleasant exterior, he was repeatedly wearing her out and every time she announced quitting mediation he offered to contact another mediator, pinning the failure of mediation on the previous one.
She came to me completely exhausted, realizing that an agreement would no longer be feasible and asking for judicial decisions that would help her separate from him. I decided to file on her behalf a divorce claim, including all financial and custody matters, with the Rabbinical Court. She was very apprehensive, holding on to the notion that the Rabbinical Court was bad for women and explaining that he would claim that she was cheating on him. It turned out that he used, as an integral part of his abuse of her, to accuse her of cheating on him with every co-worker she had exchanged a few sentences with, to call her a slut around the children and then a minute later to ask her to reconsider her decision to divorce. That was just the tip of the iceberg. “Strategically, he won’t claim that you are a cheater” I explained to her, “but will ask for reconciliation. allegations of adultery are not advisable at the Rabbinical Court for those who do not want to give a Gett and release their spouse from the marriage.”
In the end she trusted the strategy we had built for her and this week the first hearing took place. He hired a well-known and long-standing attorney who, to our surprise, filed a defense brief filled with allegations of adultery, specifically mentioning names of her co-workers. At the hearing she was asked to state what she wanted and she explained that she wanted to get divorced. When the judge asked him if he would agree to divorce, he replied that he would, but that he had conditions and wanted to reach an agreement. The judge made it clear to him that in view of the gravity of his arguments, the divorce should be immediate, that the young children would be in the custody of the mother until receiving all expert reports and that they should agree on everything after the Gett, having the court make decisions on whatever they would not able to agree on.
Six hours later she left the Rabbinical Court with the long-awaited Gett and a hearing date for discussing the child’s support and the Ketubah (a Jewish marriage agreement, which in their case was guaranteeing her NIS 215,000), both of which she had already agreed to give up in the past just to end things well.
It was unclear why his lawyer did not explain to him that after receiving the Gett, the Ketubah and its NIS 250,000 were a debt sentence, while his chances of receiving compensation for her alleged adultery (according to him) were nonexistent. She left the hearing walking on a cloud, not believing that two years of pleading could have ended a lot sooner.
The moral of the story:
– Sometimes, especially when it comes to personality disorder, mediation is not the quickest way to divorce and you should figure out quickly when there is no one to talk to.
– Do not enter into a divorce process without a clear strategy.
– Despite common conception, the Rabbinical Court can be much more efficient and beneficial to women than to men. It all depends on the circumstances. Do not run to the Rabbinical Court without checking first that it is in your best interest to do so.
2. The Abuser
He was a 58-year-old doctor, divorced with two grown sons, when he met a young beautiful 23-year-old Romanian woman in one of his overseas conferences. Love quickly blossomed and they married and moved in together at his villa in Savyon. They soon had two daughters together and so life went on for 15 years. She integrated well in Israel, found an excellent job, learned Hebrew and raised both girls with great love.
At the age of 38 she fell in love with another man, claiming that her husband was too old to satisfy her. She began to have a public affair with this other man, who was a penniless divorcee. At the age of 73, he was horrified by the idea that she would leave him and she used his weakness with extraordinary cruelty. When he came to me he was a wreck haunted with fear and anxiety, unable to think independently and being run by her threats. It turned out that she had threatened to call the police on him for being violent, for sexually harassing his patient, to get the IRS to check his statements, to take the girls to Romania and prevent him from ever seeing them again, to take half of everything he had so he would be forced to pay his debts out of the half that he was left with. She told him that he would be thrown to the streets like a dog, that the girls would be cut off from him, that she’d have a newspaper publish an investigation piece on him. The highlight of her threats was that she would commit suicide and make sure to frame him for her death.
When I could not believe it, he played me recordings of her, threatening him again and again. He assured me that he had never been violent and certainly had not harassed his patients, that no one had ever complained against him, that all his life he was a law-biding citizen and that his only weakness was his love for that young woman who had played him like a marionette now that he was in his eighth decade. At the end of the conversation he brought out a draconian draft agreement that she had prepared with her lawyer and he said he wanted to sign it and end the suffering. Obviously, she promised him that the agreement would remain in the drawer and that if he signed it she would stay with him forever and leave her divorced boyfriend. With shreds of his sanity he came for the consultation before signing that agreement, but he couldn’t bring himself to act on the advice that he received and she refused to change a word in the agreement.
This week she deliberately knocked herself down the steps of the villa, showing him blue marks on her back and telling him that he better sign the agreement or she would call the police and say that he threw her off the stairs. He signed. Luckily for him, his brother had given him a device that recorded everything and despite his objections, his brother filed a police complaint for extortion by threats.
When the police car arrived and she was taken to the police station, she felt as if her entire world had been destroyed. The discourse has changed completely. She agreed to sign the cancellation of the agreement and commence reasonable negotiations.
The moral of the story: Even if you want to divorce and believe that the other side has done you a terrible injustice, do not take advantage of distress and weakness, do not turn into monsters, do not cross red lines and do not think that everything is allowed at home. It usually does not end well and besides – karma will wait for you around the corner.
3. Miami is not waiting for him
They met at the hospital. He was a handsome and talented young doctor from a wealthy and affluent Israeli family. She was a beautiful nurse who immigrated to Israel alone and her parents cut her off when she decided to stay there. They both got ahead at work, bought an apartment and had two children. From the outside their lives looked perfect. When he received a position offer for a period of two years from a hospital in Miami and it was clear to him that she would be resigning from work and they would be moving, a crisis broke out. It turned out that at home he was an abusive man – financially, verbally and sometimes physically. He dictated a clear division of roles. He demanded that she keep the home spotless (even though they were raising two toddlers in it), always wait for him with a warm meal ready, host his family once a week, be dressed and made up like in a magazine even at home, sleep with him every day, work full time and equally share in all household expenses even though he was earning four times as much as her. He refused to open a joint account and made sure to charge her half of every expense and for grocery shopping for lavish meals for his family.
When she did not meet an expectation or when his mother did not like seeing the tiredness in her face on Friday nights, he explained to her that she was in danger of being thrown into the street, that he would divorce her, take her children, pit against her an army of lawyers hired with his parents' money and that she would return to the gutter from which he picked her. He kept criticizing her body and looks until she believed him that she was fat and ugly even though she looked like a model without any effort or makeup. In fights he used to push her and even threaten to throw her off the balcony.
Half a year ago, she began seeing a psychologist. An hour a week that was all hers and was hidden from him after he had threatened in the past that he would take her children from her with the claim that she was mentally ill. The treatment strengthened her and gradually built up her confidence that he had so skillfully disintegrated and so she managed to tell him that she did not want to come with him to Miami. When he lost his temper, threatened her, screamed and slapped her, she called the police. The good, successful doctor was arrested on the spot. His parents, who were called to release him on bail, were beside themselves. Out of fear that he would carry out his threats, take everything and throw her into the street, she hastened to file a procedure on her behalf. To her surprise, he begged her to cancel everything, agreed – for the first time – to go to a couple therapy and postpone Miami until she would agree to join. He told her how much he loved her and took full responsibility for the situation. This week she closed the procedure and said that next month they were going to Miami, that the treatment had helped and that she had received a new husband.
The moral of the story: Even if you are confident that your marriage is stable and that there is no chance that they will leave you (because of financial dependence, lack of supportive family, weak personality or simply because they love you more than you love them), do not take advantage of distress and weakness, do not turn into monsters, do not cross red lines and do not think that everything is allowed at home. It usually does not end well and besides – karma will wait for you around the corner.