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Feb 4, 2013

Divorce with inflation costs a pretty agura

I was once told by a rav involved in the beis din system in Israel, in various capacities, that nowadays the ketuba is rarely looked at during the divorce process. Despite the fact that the ketuba lays out what the husband is obligated to pay to the wife, in case of divorce or death, it has become a largely irrelevant document, in these times of divorce settlements. Because the courts divide up the money of the couple fairly evenly, in the case of a divorce, with no connection to the ketuba, there is no longer even a need to look at it, let alone use it as a basis for deciding how much he must pay her upon divorce.

That is not always the case. In a recent divorce down south, they each disputed how much had been written in the original ketuba, 35 years prior! They were arguing about it because the ketuba was lost, a long time ago. It did not disturb anyone until now, even though a couple cannot live together if the ketuba is missing,  because the husband had run off 15 years ago, leaving his wife and 4 kids behind.

She claimed that the original ketuba had promised her 152,000 lira, while he claimed that he had only promised 2000 lira in the ketuba.

Israel's currency was the lira until 1980, when it was replaced by the Shekel. The conversion rate from lira to shekel was 1 shekel for every 10 lira. That too was eventually replaced, in 1985, with the New Israeli Shekel, at a conversion rate of 1000 old shekel to 1 new shekel.

That means, his claim of owing 2000 lira meant he was saying he owed her from the ketuba obligation the grand total of 20 agurot - 2000 lira became 20 old shekel, which became 20 agurot in new shekel.

Her counter-claim was that the original ketuba promised her 152,000 lira. That would be a claim of 15,200 old shekel, being 15.20 new shekel.

The power of devaluated money.

The bigger problem was that when one is claiming money from the other, the burden of proof as to how much is owed is upon the claimant. With the original document missing, that was going to be a problem. Even though it looks like they were only fighting over 15 shekel, at this point.

The beis din decided that because the dispute is regarding what amount was stated in the original document, finding a copy would be good enough proof for clarification (it might not be good enough to stake the entire claim, but for clarification alone it is fine). Eventually a copy was located in the Rabbanut archives, and it showed that the woman's claim was correct - the scoundrel had promised her 152,000 lira in the ketuba.

The beis din evaluated the debt at a current price of 500,000 NIS. I am not sure based on what calculation, but it included inflation, which over a period of 30 years in Israel was probably pretty high for a large percentage of the time.

Beis din added that because he left the house and abandoned them, he is considered to be rebellious, a status that obligates him to pay the entire sum of the ketuba with no discounts - unless he could prove that she had destroyed the marriage. They did not accept his claim to that effect, relying on police reports of  complaints and testimony from the children that he had been violent..

The final decision was that they would sell the apartment and split the proceeds between them. She would receive her ketuba  payment in full, and his half of the apartment would be deducted from what he had to pay her from the ketuba, which ended up giving her nearly the entire apartment.
(source: Mynet)

I am a bit surprised he was not obligated to pay her mezonot for the years he was missing, but maybe that was included in the 500k decision. So, the ketuba is not a document that can always be discounted as irrelevant... and the compounding of inflation is staggering!


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