Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is the Financial Meltdown Saving Marriages?

Re: NY Times - In Housing Fall, Breaking Up Is Harder to Do

I recall this copy of a "Personals" ad in a Purim spoof publication:

All my friends are doing it and, frankly, I feel left out.
SJF, 38, Never married - Seeks divorce
.


Divorce was never meant to be easy. It was never meant to be profitable. And it was never meant to be de rigeur. Not for us Jews and not for anybody. In Talmudic times, a divorce would be absolute ruination for a woman. There was no Takanos Rabbenu Gershon then. The husband did not need her consent to give her a get and he did not need a heter meah rabbanim to marry another woman. Marital assets were not jointly owned. There would be no alimony, no child support, no "automatic" custody. No Internet support groups and no CWJ or ICAR. Nothing but pre-marital assets and the proceeds from her Kesuba. That's about one year's cost of living.

Perhaps this system was unkind, but it kept families together.

Over the past few decades, the rate of divorce within the Western world has surpassed 50% of marriages. Part of it has to do with the breakdown of family values. Part of it has to do with marrying "for the wrong reasons". Part of it has to do with feminism. Part of it has to do with the destigmatization of divorce.

But, in addition to all of the above, a lot of it has to do with making divorce easier and more financially worthwhile for a woman. Recent decades have introduced to us no-fault divorce, equitable distribution of marital assets, and maternal dominance in child custody procedings. Today, a well represented woman who is looking for brighter horizons can dump the chump and come away with the house, the car, the kids, and a chunk of his paycheck, to boot.

And they do.

Well, according to a current NY Times article, the honeymoon may be over for "smash and grab" divorces. Now that, in many situations, people owe more on their houses than they can sell them for, bickering couples are fighting over who doesn't get the house!

It seems that people who have already invested a few years of their lives and enormous legal expenses to split the cake are discovering that all they will be sharing is a portfolio of liabilities.

If only they would have known!

The gemara in Bava Metzia (59a) says:

אמר רב יהודה לעולם יהא אדם זהיר בתבואה בתוך ביתו שאין מריבה מצויה בתוך ביתו של אדם אלא על עסקי תבואה שנאמר השם גבולך שלום חלב חטים ישביעך

Rabi Yehuda says: A person should always be vigilant with the supply of grain (financial stability) in his household because the cause of marital discord within a man's home is due to nothing but matters of sustenance as is written, "He makes your domain a peaceful one, as the fat of the wheat sustains you."


This used to mean not having enough dough in the house. More recently, it has come to mean having too much dough in the house.

For frivolous divorces, the honeymoon is over!

Now maybe everyone can just get on with their lives...

6 comments:

Dov said...

I believe child support was a chov since chazal, in many cases mi-de-oraisa.

Yechezkel said...

The Halachic requirement for child support is exceedingly limited. According to the gemara in Kesubos and Rambam Hilchos Ishus 12, child support in an intact family is only mandatory for "ketanei ketanim" defined as until the age of six. It is unclear if even this much is m'd'oraisa. Beyond that it cannot be forced although the Halacha allows for a recalcitrant father to be shamed publicly.

Presumably, the above only applies in a regular family setting. If the parents are divorced and the father is denied custody it is unlikely that he would even be subject to public castigation because he could say, "My kitchen is filled with food. Come and get it."

Additionally, we know that a man has a whole list of obligations toward his wife including "healing her when sick, burying her if she dies, redeeming her if captured". The gemara does not mandate any of these toward one's child at any age.Thus, even the mandated support is limited to nourishment and perhaps minimal clothing. It does not apply to education (though a father is required to teach his son Torah, he is not required to teach his daughter anything) or to medical expenses or anything else.

Don't forget that I am referring to Talmudic times.

Chezkel

G said...

Rabi Yehuda says: A person should always be vigilant with the supply of grain (financial stability) in his household because the cause of marital discord within a man's home is due to nothing but matters of sustenance as is written, "He makes your domain a peaceful one, as the fat of the wheat sustains you."

I'm sorry...who is supposed to be careful with the supply of grain, i.e. financial stability?

kurkevan said...

Are you aware that the RSS feed on your blog no longer works?
This might drastically impact your readership levels... ;>

Dov said...

Rambam (Ishur 12:14-15) says that "ad she'yigdelu" (after age 6) is Takanat Chachamim, which usually means a chiyuv derabanan that was instituted in the times of Chazal, and thus would have been in force during Talmudic times. This brings it up to 13 or 12.

Regarding what's included, Rambam there does say "keshem she'adam chayav be'mezonos ishto, kach hu chayan bemezonos banav ubnotav." This implies that the substance of the mezonos is the same in the two cases.

Dov said...

Regarding the distinction between "intact family" and "divorced family," I gather (although don't have it in front of me) that this is a machlokes Ran and Rosh in understanding the Gemorah, and that we pasken like the Rosh that the chiyuv to children is independent of that to a wife.