If you are married or divorced in a foreign country, is it valid here in the U.S.? One woman thought she knew the answer, until a judge told her something otherwise. That’s when she turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When Efrat moved from Israel to the U.S., she saw a need for her specialty, a mediator for Jewish couples from Israel.
Efrat Almog: “I help couples to get divorce without fighting in court.”
Efrat never thought she would be involved in her own divorce after she and her husband got married before leaving Israel.
Efrat Almog: “Which we were married in a religious wedding in Israel.”
In 2019, Itzhak Polani decided to end the marriage.
Efrat Almog: “And he filed here for divorce in the civil court, Broward family court, which has no jurisdiction because our marriage is religious.”
Efrat says to properly end the marriage it had to be done in Israeli court, and she did that in 2021.
Efrat Almog: “The same court that got us married, and a year ago I got my get, which is the Jewish divorce.”
Efrat says she was a labor court judge in Israel, and in her opinion, is no longer married to Itzhak. She then asked the Broward judge overseeing the divorce case he filed to close it.
Efrat Almog: “Supplying all the documents, all the formal documents of the state of Israel that I’m already divorced. The court, the judge refused to dismiss it.”
The battle, in part, does involve money, because Efrat says the Israeli court ruled her husband owed her money.
Efrat Almog: “Ninety thousand dollars, because I’m paying his debts.”
In the Broward court, Itzhak is asking her to pay him tens of thousands of dollars.
Efrat Almog: “He’s asking for half of my income, so not only is not sharing with me his income, he demands my income.”
When the judge demanded to see Efrat’s recent financial documents, she said, ‘No, we are already divorced in Israel.’ The judge was not happy.
Efrat Almog: “And sanctioned me. Sanction me. I need to pay his lawyer fee for thousands of dollars.”
Needless to say, the mediator, the former judge in Israel, is stunned at what’s happening in the Broward Court.
Efrat Almog: “They will recognize my religious marriage, but they have to recognize my religious divorce. They cannot play on both teams.”
Well, Howard, if you are married or divorced in one country, is it valid in this country?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “Yes, it is. The U.S. recognizes decisions from foreign courts regarding marriage and divorce, but this case is different because of the timing. Once the husband filed for divorce in Broward County, the U.S. Court had exclusive jurisdiction. Efrat filed after him in Israel, and while she can get the religious divorce like she did, it’s not valid in the U.S.”
We contacted Efrat’s husband to see if he felt he owed her money or she owes him money in the divorce. He wouldn’t talk to us.
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “When it comes to the finances, the Broward Court can adopt the Israeli religious courts decision or rule differently, but whatever decision the Broward judge makes, that’s binding in the U.S. and probably Israel.”
Efrat disagrees and will keep fighting, because she says, it’s not just for her, it’s for other people in the same position.
Efrat Almog: “No one know that there is such a problem between the civil divorce and the religious divorce, and actually hundreds of people are stuck in between.”
If you ever get married or divorced in another country, make sure you have the paperwork to prove it in case things get complicated in the U.S. We will keep an eye on this case to see how it winds up.
Had a problem so long you feel like you’re married to them? Ready to separate from it? You don’t have to court us, just call us and see if we can divorce you from the headache.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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