Prenuptial Agreement Requires Couple to Litigate Divorce in Israel, not New York

Opperrabbijn_Jacobs_ondertekendA wife’s decision to sign a prenuptial agreement that named Israel as the exclusive jurisdiction for any divorce between her and her husband proved to be the undoing of her effort to secure a divorce in New York. The Appellate Division upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the wife’s divorce petition, concluding that the wife signed the prenuptial agreement, free of fraud or duress, with full knowledge of the nature of Israeli divorce laws. The fact that Israeli courts might be less favorable to her than New York ones did not mean that enforcing the forum clause in the agreement denied the wife her day in court.

Before Olivia Ofer and Ido Sirota married, they signed a prenuptial agreement. One of the terms of this agreement stated that, if a spouse decided to end the marriage, the divorce case would be litigated in the courts of Israel. Some time later, the wife decided to file for divorce, but she did so in New York County, not Israel.

The husband filed a motion in the local court, asking to dismiss the case. The clause in the prenuptial agreement governing the selection of the legal forum for the couple’s divorce should be enforced, he argued, meaning that the divorce should be litigated only in Israel. The trial court granted this motion and dismissed the case.

The wife appealed but was unsuccessful, since the courts could find no legal reason for disturbing the provisions of the prenuptial agreement. There was no evidence that the prenuptial agreement (including the forum clause) was the result of fraud or duress, or that it was otherwise invalid.

The wife raised an unpersuasive argument based upon the husband’s failure to comply with the prenuptial agreement, since she pointed out that he failed to give her a “get” (a divorce document under Jewish law), even though the agreement required him to do so. The husband’s potential violation of the agreement did not affect the validity of the clause setting exclusive jurisdiction in Israel. The husband’s potential misconduct was an issue that could be resolved by the Israeli courts, according to the Appellate Division.

The wife also failed to convince the court that requiring her to divorce in Israel would deprive her of her rights because Israel does not have “no fault” divorce. The wife, who was an Israeli citizen, knew about that jurisdiction’s laws regarding divorce when she agreed to sign the prenuptial agreement. Simply because bringing her case in Israel, as opposed to New York, would be more difficult, and a New York court might treat her more favorably than an Israeli one did not mean that enforcing the agreement would deprive the wife of her day in court, in the Appellate Division’s view.

Prenuptial agreements involve making many vital decisions. whether an item seems large or small at the time, it could later become very important when you decide to seek a divorce. For knowledgeable advice and determined representation in your prenuptial agreement and divorce issues, talk to New York divorce attorney Ingrid Gherman. Putting her knowledge and skill on your side can help you make certain your interests are protected.

Contact her online or by calling (212) 941-0767 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Daughter’s On-Again-Off-Again College Attendance Not Enough to Delay Sale of New York Marital Residence, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, Dec. 29, 2014

Husband Loses Millions in Separate Property Credits Due to Prenuptial Agreement’s Use of ‘The’, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, Dec. 18, 2014