BY DAVID TEETER
What does this mean, kosher divorce? Divorce is one of the most stress-filled times in a person’s life. However, even during a divorce, the parties have an obligation to act in an ethical manner, to treat each other with respect, and to make a kiddush Hashem.
Problems in a divorce usually arise when the parties act out of anger. The husband moves out of the house and stops paying the bills because he is angry at his wife. The wife cannot pay the bills and is forced to run to court for an emergency order of financial support. Or the wife is angry at the husband, and refuses to let him see the children. The husband is bereft without the children, and now he has to run to court for an emergency order of parenting time (visitation).
When these clients come to an attorney for help, they want a solution as soon as possible, and justifiably so. The current situation cannot continue for another day. The attorney then prepares papers for court, characterizing the other spouse in the worst possible light. Their motion papers are served on that spouse, who is only further upset and often enraged at the characterization of him or her in this official court document. And the cycle continues.
This is the opposite of a kosher divorce. In a kosher divorce, both the husband and the wife make decisions based solely on the best interests of the entire family, putting aside their individual interests. This is easier said than done, because you must do so even when you know that the other one is not doing the same.
Thus, even if the husband stops paying the bills, the wife must not stop him from seeing the children. And even if the wife does not let the husband see the kids, he must still continue to pay the bills.
Why not punish your spouse when you know that he or she has done something to harm you? Because people see what you are doing. The judge will see it and will assign equal blame to you as to your spouse. Your children will see it and will be hurt to see their parents act poorly toward each other. The community may hear of it, and may feel forced to take sides. But equally important, it is a chillul Hashem.
None of this is meant to suggest that one must be a pushover. Each spouse should zealously advocate for himself or herself. Neither should leave the negotiating table or the courtroom feeling that he or she did not make the best case possible. It simply must be done ethically, honorably, and without anger or a desire for recrimination.
It is unfortunate when two people who had the best intentions could not make their marriage succeed. A divorce is the sad recognition of that fact. It is also an opportunity to do right by your spouse, your children, your community, and yourself. v
David Teeter is an attorney practicing in Garden City, New York. He can be reached at David@DWTFamilyLaw.com.