Bill passed on sanctions for 'recalcitrant husbands'

Knesset Constitution, Law, Justice C'tee approve new bill; may require courts to hold hearings on punitive sanctions for men who refuse to give wives 'get.'

Divorce gavel court get 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Divorce gavel court get 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
A new bill may obligate religious courts to hold hearings on applying punitive sanctions to a husband who is ignoring an order to give his wife a get, or bill of divorce.
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the measure on Tuesday.
The bill, proposed by MKs Otniel Schneller (Kadima) and Zvulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), will require the courts to initiate a hearing within 30 days if the court had previously ordered the husband to give a get to his wife through a “obligatory” or “coercive” decree, and within 90 days for an order which “recommended” or “commanded” that the get be given.
“The bill stems from the distressing phenomenon of men refusing to give their wives a get, and from the need to streamline the work of the rabbinical courts,” said Orlev after the hearing.
Jewish law stipulates that a divorce can only be enacted if a husband gives a get to his wife. If he refuses, she cannot remarry. A get is only valid if it is given of the husband’s free will.
Punitive measures, such as confiscation of a man’s driver’s license and imprisonment, can be imposed on a recalcitrant husband to persuade him to give the get, but such sanctions are looked at with concern by the rabbinical courts due to the concern that the husband will not be giving the get of his own free will, thus invalidating it.
The purpose of the bill is to expedite the process by which sanctions can be imposed and to force the rabbinical courts to deal with a man who, having been ordered to give his wife a get, continues to refuse to do so.
According to Mavoi Satum, a women’s rights advocacy group, many years can pass even after a the courts have ordered that a get be given, before the husband agrees to do so.
Chairman of the committee MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) also welcomed the approval of the bill.
“The law is designed to solve the problem of men refusing to give a get,” he said “and to transfer the obligation of the imposition of sanctions on to the rabbinical courts, in hearings which will not require the presence of the man in question.”
Batya Kehana, director of Mavoi Satum who helped draft the bill, expressed hope that the bill will help accelerate the process for women to be granted a get.
“We hope that the bill will help shorten the period of abuse and blackmail that women who are denied a get experience, and put an end to the foot-dragging that characterizes the rabbinical courts,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
“Unlike the situation currently prevailing in the courts, in which nothing is done when a ruling granting a get is ignored by the husband, the courts will now be required to hold a follow-up hearing regarding the imposition of sanctions. This measure imposes an additional responsibility on the courts to ensure the enforcement of their rulings.”
The bill was approved by the committee for its second and third readings in the Knesset, with the support of committee members Orlev, Schneller, Rotem and Herzog.
MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) voted against the bill and after the vote he requested from the committee chairman that a session be held to debate certain revisions.
Michaeli was not available for comment regarding the reason for his opposition.