Rabbinical Courts stymie proposals for better enforcement of divorce rulings

The proposals were made following the transfer of the rabbinical courts system from under the authority of the Justice Ministry over to the Religious Services Ministry.

March 2, 2016 18:40
2 minute read.

Divorce. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Proposals to computerize and streamline the way the rabbinical courts track and follow up on cases of divorce refusal – proposals made back in July 2015 – seem permanently stuck due to foot-dragging by the Rabbinical Courts Administration, it has been alleged.

The proposals were made following the transfer of the rabbinical courts system from under the authority of the Justice Ministry over to the Religious Services Ministry, as demanded by Shas in the coalition negotiations.

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Among the measures, which were to be passed by a government order, was a proposal to create a computer system to record the rulings of the rabbinical courts on divorce cases, specifically when a spouse was ordered to give or receive a divorce.

It would send out warning notices to the relevant parties if the ruling was not implemented, warn the rabbinical courts system itself if a ruling remained unimplemented after 45 days, and be used to record unusual actions or incidents relating to a specific case.

Currently, once a ruling is given, the responsibility for following up and ensuring the ruling is implemented devolves upon the parties to the divorce itself, so if a ruling is given ordering a man to give a bill of divorce to his wife, it is the wife who must alert the rabbinical courts if the husband fails to adhere to the ruling.

This is both complicated, costly and causes delays to the implementation of the court’s wishes.

The government order was also supposed to require various ministries to produce legislation that would abolish legal fees when a rabbinical court had ordered a spouse to grant a divorce but he continued to refuse to do so.

Other legislation that was supposed to have been drawn up as a result of the government order was a bill to increase the type of sanctions available to the courts to use against someone who refuses to grant a divorce, and a bill that would enable the publication of rabbinical court decisions for public use, albeit in an anonymous fashion.

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, who has strongly advocated for the new measures, said that the Rabbinical Courts Administration had dragged its feet on agreeing to the final terms of the government order, in particular arguing over the cost and saying it would require new positions in the administration to be opened up and funded.

Azaria said that even after she secured NIS 500,000 for the computer system to be put into operation, the rabbinical courts insisted on 18 extra staff members to operate it.

Funding was found for four new staff members, yet the administration demanded at least six.

Azaria strongly criticized the ongoing failure of the rabbinical courts to approve the government decision, to allow it to be approved by the cabinet, saying that it was a disservice to victims whom the courts had already ruled in favor of but who could not get the rulings to be enforced.

Director of the Rabbinical Courts Administration Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi said in response that the administration accepted in principle the need for the proposed measures, saying he took the issue seriously. He insisted, however, that the administration has struggled for many years with a lack of manpower and that it would require at least six new positions to operate the new system.

Yaakobi also said that a formal document proposing the funding of four staff members had never been submitted to him or to the Religious Services Ministry.

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