What is a Joint Life Agreement
A Joint Life Agreement (hereinafter: ‘Agreement’) is an Agreement between a couple, that settles the various issues that have arisen from their relationship. In this article we will explain in detail what a Joint Life Agreement is, and why it is important to draft one with the help of a family lawyer who is certified as a mediator.
The topics the article will discuss:
- The circumstances that may lead to the necessity of an Agreement;
- Who is advised to make an Agreement;
- The dangers of not drafting an Agreement;
- The content within an Agreement;
- The approval of an Agreement;
- The cancellation /violation of an Agreement.
The circumstances that may lead to the necessity of drawing up a Joint Life Agreement
In the State of Israel, there are many couples who do not establish a marital relationship. The reasons vary: the couple may not want to form a marital relation at all, the couple may not be able to marry in Israel (for example; same-sex couples, intermarriage, a divorced Cohen etc.).
The Prenuptial Relations Law, 1973, which only applies to married couples from January 1st 1974, allows any married couple to draft a prenuptial/financial agreement.
What can those unmarried couples, who want to arrange their property issues, do? What can married/unmarried couples do if they want to solve other issues (besides property) between them?
The solution for all these couples would be to make a Joint Life Agreement.
Who is advised to make a Joint Life Agreement?
A Joint Life Agreement is recommended to various types of relationships, for example:
- Unmarried, but authentic, couples: These are couples who have not married. These couples have rights to each other, after a certain amount of time of being together, hence the need for those couples to draft an agreement and regulate the issues that may arise from their relationship. Failure to do so may result in different results that they do not want at all.
- Same-sex couples: These couples can’t marry in Israel. If they wish to settle their relationship, they can only do so within the framework of the agreement.
- Couples married since January 1st 1974: These couples can draft a prenuptial agreement according to Sections 1 and 2 of the Prenuptial Relations Act, 1973. A Joint Life Agreement gives them the opportunity to regulate any other issues that may arise from their marriage.
- Couples married before 1974: If these couples don’t form a Prenuptial Agreement, then the “Sharing Practice” (as will be explained below) will be applied to them, regarding their property. In relation to any other issues they may have, other than property, they must do so under an Agreement.
The dangers of not drafting a Joint Life Agreement
Couples who do not draft an agreement, which regulates their relationship status and the various issues that may arise within their relationship, may find themselves (usually when separated) subject to the court’s determination as to the nature of their relationship which can have significant implications. The following are a number of decisions set out in Israeli courts that illustrate the dangers of not making an Agreement and hence, the need for such an Agreement:
- In the absence of an Agreement between unmarried couples, it is for the court to determine by various indications whether the couple will be formally recognized with a public status. (Isaiah Shahar v. Mendel Friedman).
- Even if one of the spouses is still married, the couple can still be regarded as having a public status (CA 384/61 State of Israel v. Ruth Sophia Pessler).
- Courts apply the “Sharing Practice” rule to couples with a public staus (Isaiah Shachar v. Mendel Friedman). The “Sharing Practice”, grants the couple equal rights in common property when the spouse claiming it proves the necessary conditions.
The “sharing practice” applies to Same-Sex Couples as well (Falon v. Falonon)
Publicly recognized couples and inheritance
- Inheritance: in the event that one spouse dies and the remaining spouse was publically recognized as their spouse, that same person has rights to the deceased’s estate, pursuant to Section 55 of the Inheritance Law, 1965.
- There may be items the deceased did not want their spouse to inherit yet, because they did not settle/acknowledge their relationship status in a Joint Life Agreement, the living spouse can be formally recognized as their partner and will receive parts of those items.
- The reversed situation could occur: the deceased may have wanted to share their assets with their spouse, but the couple did not form a Joint Life Agreement. In this case, the court could decide that the couple did not have a public status and thus, the remaining spouse would be left with nothing.
Alimony between unmarried, but publicly recognized spouses
Unmarried, but formally recognized spouses have no legal right to alimony. In order to qualify for alimony during the Joint Life period, an agreement is required (Rachel Jaeger (Flink), also known as Flavitz v. Zeev Flavitz). Eligibility for alimony after separation requires an explicit agreement (Zimbol Vesno v. Isaac Cohen).
In summary: We recognize the importance of making a Joint Life Agreement – failing to make an agreement can have dire consequences. For married couples, the agreement will also be of great help if they divorce and need to make a divorce agreement.
It is important to make the agreement with the help of a family lawyer (preferably one also qualified as a mediator), who will be able to help the parties form a comprehensive and complete agreement leaving no gaps.
Content of a joint life agreement
In a Joint Life Agreement, the couple can include any subject they wish to settle. Here are the essential clauses to be included in the agreement:
- Relationship status
This is the section where the couple declares themselves as spouses who maintain a joint household. This is a reference to the state authorities that they are a couple and they can receive various benefits (such as Social Security, etc.).
- The property clause
This regulates the rights of both the joint property of the couple and the separate property of each spouse.
- Child/spouse alimony clause.
- Parental Responsibility and Child Care Clause.
- A section providing a separation mechanism.
Approval of a Joint Life Agreement
A Joint Life Agreement does not need to be approved by any court in order to be valid. Both spouses signature on the Agreement is enough for it to be valid and binding. However, the couple is advised to approve the agreement with one of the following:
- The Family Court according to Section 3 (c) of the Family Court Law, 1995
These bodies will approve the Agreement, after the couple have signed it, and seeing that the couple understand its contents, implications and consequences, and that their signature has been made voluntarily. It is highly advisable for the couple to approve the Agreement at the Family Court, in order to receive a judgment. Receiving a judgment for the Agreement will allow the couple to exercise and enforce the various clauses more easily when needed.
Cancellation/violation of a Joint Life Agreement
A Joint Life Agreement is a contract for all intents and purposes, which is why Contracts Law applies to it.
- Cancellation: The Agreement can be revoked if it breaks the Contract Law.
- Violations: Violation of the agreement can give someone a variety of compensations listed within the Contract Law (Medicines for Breach of Contract, 1970.
Interested in drafting a Joint Life Agreement? COHEN, DECKER, PEX & BROSH LAW-FIRM ARE HERE TO HELP!
Here at the Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Offices we have attorneys qualified as mediators. Our attorneys will guide you through drawing up a comprehensive Joint Life Agreement that will meet all of your needs.