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An arbitration ruling has ordered a man who was unfaithful to his wife to pay her compensation. The ruling was exceptional in giving legal recognition to a written commitment made by the husband not to cheat on his wife, and a guarantee to pay her NIS 300,000 if he did so nonetheless. Some members of the Israeli legal community take the position that such agreements are unenforceable.

The couple had presented themselves publicly as a common law couple for many years, when, some two years ago, the woman caught the man with a younger woman. It was then that he made the written commitment to be faithful. The woman again caught her husband with the same young woman, however, and again alleged that he was being unfaithful.

Pursuant to a prior agreement between them to refer their differences to an arbitrator, they turned to retired Haifa District Court Judge Izak Gacoby Shvilly to rule on the matter. The husband called the legal validity of the written promise into question, claiming that the couple had agreed to rescind the commitment. Both parties produced witnesses in support of their positions on the validity of the document, but in the end, the arbitration proceedings results in the decision in the wife's favor.

Controversial ruling

Prof. Michael Corinaldi, an expert on domestic relations law, expressed the opinion that such agreements are not legally binding. He said they are contrary to public policy, meaning that it would be contrary to the public interest to enforce them. His view was seconded by Ayelet Blecher Prigat, a domestic relations expert on the faculty of the Sha'arei Mishpat College, who said the ruling was exceptional.

The civil domestic relations court system has declared that matters of morals have no place in the division of a couple's property or in setting the amount of alimony, she said. There are things the court system cannot deal with, and this is one of them, Prigat added.