'Get Smart' initiative to ease divorce process

A new organization started work last week hoping to help divorcing couples break up in a more amicable fashion. Tel Aviv-based Get Smart, set up by father and son team Alex and Yuval Peled, hopes to help separating couples divide personal belongings, real estate, financial assets, business ventures and other shared assets more equitably. This would reduce costly legal fees and lengthy court proceedings, and tidy up an often messy divorce process that can have damaging results for the children involved. "If couples separate with a feeling that justice has been done, then they are more prepared to start a new chapter and carry on with their lives," said Alex Peled, who together with son Yuval has owned an insurance agency for the past 10 years. According to a survey commissioned by Get Smart, close to 40 percent of divorcing couples are unhappy with the division of property. "That is exactly the reason we set up Get Smart," said Yuval Peled. "We hope to offer a fair and equal solution to dividing up shared property between divorcing partners." Couples who cannot agree on how to divide up their belongings will be referred to Get Smart, either by their lawyers or by the courts, said the older Peled. This means that divorcing couples will be able to sort out their differences under one roof, said attorney Uri Zfat, who specializes in family law. "A body such as Get Smart will assist the work of a divorce lawyer and the law court, helping to speed up the process," he said. Etti Paz, director of the Family Clinic at the Adler Institute in Israel, which has its headquarters in Herzliya, also welcomed the new organization. "Get Smart will help by shortening the divorce process, which will in turn reduce the negative effect of divorce on the children," she said. She added: "When the parents are caught up in dividing up their lives, it is so easy to forget about the children." The Adler Institute offers advice on how to divorce in a way that minimizes destructive behavior. Roughly one-third of Israeli couples divorce, according to data collected by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2002. A large proportion are couples who have been married for more than 20 years and share valuable property. Get Smart will mediate the division of property by breaking it down into four areas: movable property, which includes furniture, jewelry, electronics, artwork, books, collections and other household goods; real estate; overall financial assets; and shared business ventures. The Get Smart team, which is made up of lawyers and experts in family law, will work on the fine details of the divorce so that couples can move through the divorce process without getting held up on petty issues such as who gets the TV. Get Smart's survey found that women were less happy than men with the outcome of divorce proceedings, with 40% saying that the division of property was unfair. Altogether, only 27% of those questioned by the survey takers were happy with the work of their divorce lawyers.