A couple got married, but later, because of disagreements, their relationship almost ran aground. Finally, they made a financial agreement and managed to maintain their relationship. However, a few years after the first crisis, the relationship again deteriorated and indeed, the couple divorced. After the divorce, the couple went to court. One side (the husband) – petitioned to cancel the financial agreement. The other side (the woman) petitioned the court to enforce the financial agreement. Later, the Family Court gave a ruling and the parties then appealed. In the hearing of the appeal, the court ordered the receipt of information from any financial institution in which the couple had ever held an account. The parties did not agree to this – since there is no doubt that in such a case there is an infringement of privacy. Was the District Court allowed to do so?
The Supreme Court was asked this question in the framework of an appeal filed on that decision.
Distribution of property between spouses
The rule is that when spouses divorce, their common property will be distributed equally. This law, names The Financial Relations Between Spouses Law, 5733-1973, stipulates that in the absence of any other consent, the legal default is that the spouses’ joint property be divided equally between the spouses. If the couple has drawn a financial agreement between them, which has been approved by the court or a notary, then the agreement that exists in the financial agreement is the one that will bind the couple. A financial agreement is an agreement in which the spouses arrange, with their consent, the division of property between them, at the time of separation or divorce.
The right to privacy
The law is that every citizen of Israel has the right to privacy. The Privacy Protection Law, 5741-1981, provides that every citizen has the right to his photographs and personal information NOT being distributed. Regarding bank accounts and financial information – every citizen has the right to privacy. However, the law allows certain bodies to obtain information. The law also determines that not every act is an infringement of privacy, if it was done in good faith and with additional restrictions that I will not elaborate on in this short article.
The parties’ arguments
In fact, the appeal in this case was filed by the woman, who argued that the District Court’s decision violates her privacy and is not even required for a decision in the proceeding. The woman also claimed that the violation of her privacy under the circumstances is disproportionate, but extreme. On the other hand, the husband argued that there was no basis for appeal. Among other things, the husband claimed that the woman’s appeal was submitted because of her fear that it might turn out that she hid money.
The court’s decision
The court ruled as a starting point that economic information was protected under the right to privacy. This is as follows: “There is no dispute that information concerning a person’s economic situation is private information, and that the use of this information without consent constitutes a violation of privacy.
Nevertheless, there are times that the disclosure of private information is required in order to maintain a fair, efficient and fair legal process.” At the same time, however, the court determined that, at times, private-economic information is required for exposure, in order to promote the legal process, and in particular to promote the principle of investigating the truth. The court also determined that in such cases, the court must find the balancing point, that is, to act in a middle way, in the framework of which the legal process will be promoted, and so too the investigation of the truth and the right of the party to privacy will not be harmed.
The Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the District Court is problematic and breaches the privacy of the woman. The reason for this is that the District Court’s decision was for 2007, a year in which the couple no longer had a common life and so their property was no longer shared. Therefore, the circumstances of the case are irrelevant to the information and the infringement of privacy in this case is disproportionate and justified. Thus, the Supreme Court wrote: “The appeal argued, among other things, that the Family Court erred in determining the dates it set for the purpose of balancing the rights between the parties, and that the right date for balancing the rights was a date prior to the dates determined (the date of the split). It is clear, therefore, that the disclosure of the information in accordance with the dates determined in the judgment of the Family Court is not required for the purpose of the appeal process.”
The appeal of the woman was accepted, but note that in the judgment, other secondary questions relating to the proceedings were discussed, which I shall not elaborate on.