Woman ordered to pay NIS 200,000 for refusing divorce

While disputes over refusals to grant a get are relatively common, most cases involve husbands who deny their wives a divorce.

Divorce gavel court get 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Divorce gavel court get 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
A judge in the Krayot Family Court ordered a woman on Sunday to pay her husband hefty compensation after she refused to accept a get, a Jewish divorce.
Judge Marina Levy ordered the woman to pay her husband NIS 200,000 in damages compensation: NIS 25,000 for each year she has refused to accept the get.
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While disputes over refusals to grant a get are relatively common, most cases involve husbands who deny their wives a divorce.
It is far rarer – though not unheard of – for a woman to refuse to accept a get from her husband.
In this case, the wife – who cannot be named for legal reasons – had refused to accept a divorce since 2003, even though the Rabbinic Court had ruled to allow her husband to give her a get.
The couple, who were wed in 1978, have no children and although they have lived apart since 2003, they are still considered a married couple under Israeli and Jewish law.
The husband first filed for divorce in the Rabbinic Court in 1986, citing as reasons his wife’s inability to conceive and marital conflicts. However, at that time, the Rabbinic Court refused to allow him to divorce.
In 2003, the couple separated and the husband again turned to the Rabbinic Court for a get, on the grounds that his wife could not bear children.
On that occasion, the Rabbinic Court ruled that according to Jewish law, the woman should be given a get [Jewish divorce] after medical examinations of the couple revealed that the husband is capable of fathering children, but the woman could not bear children except via a life-endangering medical procedure.
The Rabbinic Court later rejected the woman’s appeal against the get, after she claimed her husband wanted to leave her for another woman.
However, the woman had still refused to accept the get.
The husband told the court on Sunday that the only reason the woman wanted to remain legally married to him was because as his spouse she is entitled to receive a third of his disability pension. He claimed her refusal to accept the divorce had caused him severe psychological damage, and denied him the opportunity to remarry and have children.
The woman denied this and claimed she had refused the divorce because she is still in love with her husband and wanted to reconcile. She told the court that under Jewish law, her husband was free to ask the Rabbinic Court for permission to marry another woman without first divorcing her. However, Levy ruled that the woman’s refusal to accept the get was not reasonable.
Citing an academic paper titled ‘I want to get a Divorce now!’ by family law expert Prof. Shahar Lifshitz, Levy said that the right to disengage from a relationship should be an integral part of society’s values.
“When a person wishes to end a marriage, and that desire is clear and consistent over time, the other party cannot refuse even if they would like to continue the relationship,” wrote the judge. “The refusal to give or receive a get usually intensifies the desire of the other side to leave the relationship, it deepens the rift between the two and instills feelings of anger, resentment and indignation.”
In ruling that the woman should pay her husband compensation, Levy said that in refusing to accept the get she had infringed on her husband’s autonomy. Levy pointed out that the same reasoning would apply in the case of a man refusing his wife a get.
Levy also ruled that the compensation ruling would not be canceled even if the woman now agreed to a divorce, and added that the husband could also sue for future damages if the woman continued to refuse to divorce.
Lifshiftz told The Jerusalem Post that the ruling was an important one.
“The ruling maintains a firm civil line which says that there is a price to be paid for allowing a person to shackle their partner to them and for exploiting the religious court, which requires that both sides agree to divorce,” said Lifshitz.
“The decision also reflects the concept of gender equality in which neither the man and woman are in charge of their partner.”
Lifshitz pointed out, however, that in terms of divorce there is not absolute equality between men and women, particularly in cases where the wife is financially dependent on the husband.
Batia Kahana Dror, leader of the nonprofit organization Mevoi Satum, which advocates for women denied a get, said she backed the court’s ruling.
“It’s good that the man will receive compensation. A get should not be used as a bargaining chip for a woman or a man,” she said.
However, Kahana Dror said that she did not agree with the level of compensation the woman was ordered to pay.
“When a man denies a woman a get, the damage to her is far greater than in cases like this where a woman refuses to divorce her husband,” she said. “Jewish law does not treat men and women equally in this respect, so the amount of compensation women must pay should be less.”