High Court overrules Rabbinical Court, man refusing divorce stays jailed

High Court blocks Rabbinate in unprecedented move, to allow wife’s civil damages suit against husband to be heard as he remains jailed.


In an unprecedented move, the High Court of Justice last week intervened in a case being heard by the Supreme Rabbinical Court and blocked the release of a husband who had been jailed for refusing to divorce his wife.

The High Court of Justice

The High Court of Justice – Photo by Michal Fattal


The rabbinical court − the top court of appeals in the state rabbinical court system − was chaired by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and included Rabbi Tzion Boaron and Rabbi Eliezer Igra, a candidate for the post of chief rabbi.

The rabbinical court had ruled that although the husband deserved to be jailed for recalcitrance, he would be released unless the wife withdrew a civil damages suit she had filed against him.

The wife petitioned to the High Court, and Justice Uzi Vogelman issued a temporary injunction, ordering the husband to stay behind bars until the woman’s petition can be heard.

The proceedings began back in 2002 when the wife filed for divorce. After four years, the local rabbinical court issued an “obligation to divorce” ruling against the husband, who then toughened his conditions for granting the divorce.

In 2010, the wife filed a civil damages claim against her husband in family court.

This past October, the rabbinical court sentenced the husband to six months in jail, in an effort to pressure him to grant his wife a divorce. He was detained, and the two sides seemed to be making progress toward finalizing the divorce, when in December the Supreme Rabbinical Court ruled that he could only be kept in jail if the wife withdrew her civil suit.

The rabbinical court judges argued that the civil suit constituted improper interference with the court’s discretion, as well as with the husband’s discretion to grant his wife a get ‏(divorce‏). Under Jewish law, a get is not valid if the husband is forced to issue it.

Last Wednesday, the wife petitioned the High Court of Justice along with several women’s rights groups, claiming that the rabbinical court was trying to “deny the civil courts in general, and the family courts in particular, their clear authority to hear and give remedy in family damage claims … while undermining the petitioner’s basic rights and preferring a situation in which the scofflaw − the recalcitrant husband − benefits.”

The rabbinical court appeared upset by Vogelman’s ruling. “This has no precedent,” a source in the system told Haaretz. “While there have been past attempts, the High Court has never interfered in a din Torah [religious court case] and the way in which the batei din [rabbinical courts] interpret Torah law.”

The source stressed that the rabbinical court’s ruling did not constitute a “race for jurisdiction” between the civil and rabbinic court systems, but reflected am effort to prevent a forced get.


View original HAARETZ publication at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/high-court-blocks-rabbinate-keeps-man-who-refused-divorce-behind-bars.premium-1.500177