Rabbinical Court rules get refuser husband married, wife divorced

The husband will be forbidden to remarry until he gives his ex-wife another divorce (get l'chumra), while his ex-wife can remarry.

File photo: Divorce. (photo credit: REUTERS)
File photo: Divorce.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

In a rare ruling, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court issued a decision last week stating that a man who publicly stated that the "get" (religious divorce document) he granted his wife was not valid would be considered still married and that he would be placed on the list of people who are not permitted to remarry until he granted his wife an additional get. However, at the same time, his wife would be considered divorced and free to remarry.

The couple wed in 2006 and had five children, but after a decade, the marriage fell apart. In April 2017, the wife left the house and filed a divorce claim with the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, but from the moment the procedure began, the husband unequivocally refused to grant her a divorce.

In December 2019, upon the request by Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha Legal Aid Center which represents the wife, the court handed down a decision compelling the husband to issue the divorce or to face a series of social sanctions.

When the imposition of sanctions did not yield the desired effect, the court – in another rare move – approved the request of Yad La'isha's attorney Dina Raitchik to order the owner of the apartment that the husband rents not to renew his rental lease, and instructing any other homeowners in Israel not to rent him an apartment until he released his wife from her chains.

The husband steadfastly stood by his refusal until it was made clear to him that if he did not grant the divorce, he would be imprisoned – at which point earlier this year, he finally agreed to set his wife free.

 THE RABBINICAL COURT’S Division for Agunot in Jerusalem. ‘It’s high time for there to be women’s representatives in the rabbinical courts.’ (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90) THE RABBINICAL COURT’S Division for Agunot in Jerusalem. ‘It’s high time for there to be women’s representatives in the rabbinical courts.’ (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

This week, the tribunal summoned the parties after it came to their attention that the husband had been publicly stating that the divorce he gave was null since he did not actually say the necessary words during the course of the get ceremony. After being warned that his conduct bordered on contempt of court and failure to comply with their decisions, the judges handed down the decision believed to be precedential: since the man had slandered the validity of the get, he will be forbidden to remarry until he gives his ex-wife another divorce (get l'chumra), and will be placed on the court's list of marriage detainees.

Simultaneously, the woman's get remains valid; she will continue to be considered divorced for all intents and purposes and is permitted to remarry. The judges also imposed seven days in prison for contempt of court. They noted in their decision that if the man would retract his statements and grant the woman another divorce, the imprisonment would be canceled.

Ohr Torah Stone and Yad La’isha applauded the court's decision and the impact it will hopefully have on future recalcitrant husbands.

“This Rabbinical Court ruling makes it ever more clear to get-refusers that they have no right to play both sides of the field - on the one hand issuing a get to avoid sanctions, while at the very same time continuing their recalcitrance in public,” said Raitchik. “We thank the court for taking a firm stance in this case. This decision is another important step in our continued struggle against get-abuse.”

Pnina Omer, director of Yad La’isha, also commended the "uncompromising determination" of the Rabbinical Court. “This is a remarkable example of how rabbinical judges should aspire to act, and a model to which the Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Court Judges should set before them when installing the next round of judges: people of courage who do are not afraid to bravely liberate agunot.”