Woman fined by Rabbinical Court for seeking police assistance

Ex-husband allegedly owes NIS 100,000 in child support payments and harassed his former wife and her partner.

THE RABBINICAL court of Tel Aviv. It has been said that rabbinical courts allow men to hold back consent to divorce their wives in order to extort the women into agreeing to unfair overall terms. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
THE RABBINICAL court of Tel Aviv. It has been said that rabbinical courts allow men to hold back consent to divorce their wives in order to extort the women into agreeing to unfair overall terms.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A woman whose ex-husband is NIS 100,000 in arrears in child support, and who harassed her and her partner following their divorce, has been fined NIS 100,000 by the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court for obtaining a restraining order from the police against him, and for seeking a court seizure of his child-support debts.
The basis for the fine is a highly contentious clause in the couple’s divorce agreement which stipulates that neither side shall approach the police, family courts, or welfare authorities for any matter regarding the behavior of the other party before obtaining the permission of the rabbinical court to do so.
Deborah, not her real name, signed this agreement in 2010 out of desperation to get a divorce agreement from her husband following three years of divorce negotiations.
He insisted that he would not grant the divorce unless she agreed to the clause that neither side could approach the civil authorities without permission of the rabbinical court.
Deborah was frightened that she would become one of the significant number of women in Israel denied a get (religious divorce) by their husbands for an extended period of time, and so agreed to the clause.
Her ex-husband paid child support payments for three of their four children for the first year following their divorce but failed to continue payments after that. Deborah claims that he owes her NIS 100,000 although the ex-husband claims he owes her half that amount.
The divorce agreement included a stipulation that both parties follow an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, and following the divorce the ex-husband filed a demand that the woman not be allowed to host her male partner at her home.
He then began to stalk and harass Deborah and her partner in order to prove that they were not living a religious life, and would wait around outside her house to take pictures of them.
Eventually, the woman filed a request with the police for a restraining order against her husband and also filed a request with the police to obtain the child support payments he owed her.
He subsequently filed suit against her in the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court demanding NIS 400,000 in fines, as laid out in the divorce agreement, for her violations of the clause prohibiting either side from approaching the civil authorities without the permission of the rabbinical court.
The Center for Women’s Justice which is representing Deborah is arguing however that the divorce agreement is illegal since it was signed under duress and because the organizations argues that no legal agreement can waive the civil rights to turn to law enforcement agencies for redress.
CWJ director Susan Weiss said that the requirement to seek such permission from the rabbinical courts was illegal since the rabbinical courts are not empowered to determine what is a crime or not.
She said that Deborah did not seek the permission of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court because she needed immediate relief from the harassment of her husband.
The rabbinical court judges on Deborah’s case, Rabbis Uriel Lavie, Shlomo Tam and David Malka, ruled that she had violated the agreement by failing to request the court’s permission, and insisted that requesting permission from the rabbinical court before going to the police and civil courts was a “reasonable and accessible” request.
Because the option was available to her to request permission, the clause did not violate public policy as CWJ claimed, the judges ruled.
They levied a NIS 100,000 fine against her instead of the NIS 400,000 stipulated in the divorce agreement.
“CWJ will appeal this decision – as it will all decisions of the rabbinical court – which violate fundamental legal and civil rights of women, and which constitute an illicit power grab of authorities vested in other branches of government,” said Weiss.
“Once again, this decision demonstrates the rabbinic courts’ inability to adjudicate issues in consonance with basic legal principles.”