Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Rabbinic courts: Lift the anchor!
Rabbinic judges claim women who refuse to compromise on their financial rights 'anchor themselves' to unwanted marriages, or turn themselves into agunot. Meanwhile, family courts have ruled that husbands should be held financially accountable for their recalcitrance. Let public decide
A man who refused to give his wife a get for 10 years asked a rabbinic court to determine if he is should be considered a “recalcitrant husband” or not. He hoped to present the determination to the Family Courts where his wife was suing him for damages that had ensued as a result of his behavior.
However, the Rabbinic Court surprisingly turned matters on their head by ruling that the wife was “anchoring herself” to the marriage.
The judges even suggested that “perhaps the woman will wake up from her coma and from her stubbornness and understand that she is the recalcitrant one"—since she refuses to compromise with her husband on division of property.
In the 14-page decision, the judges "forgot" to mention that the parties are waiting for a judgment from the family courts regarding division of property, and instead determined that “the husband is not anchoring his wife”.
The text of the ruling reveals that there is nothing less than a "world war" going on between the Rabbinic Courts and the Family Courts regarding the definition of recalcitrance. Rabbi Yanai, for example, writes: “Unfortunately, as damage claims become more widespread, we are reverting to the ‘dark ages’ of power struggles over jurisdiction, only this time, the battle takes a particularly harsh form…”
“We are dealing here with a struggle over who is the ruling authority and over the very force and legitimacy of any decision that was given, or will be given, by the Rabbinic Court on the issue of divorce. To our great dismay, this is not just a little battle but a real world war.
"From the perspective of pure Halacha, we are dealing with some of the most essential and important issues in the laws of personal status – the validity of the get and the threat of mamzer (bastards). If this difficult phenomenon of damage claims spreads without clear boundaries, in the end, who knows what will happen?”
Rabbi Pardes has called on the courts to stop damage claims: “In this context, the Rabbinic Court urges, in all sincerity, that those in position of authority in the Israeli legal system to refrain from dealing with damage claims. Though their objective is to benefit the parties who bring these suits, in practice it causes them direct harm and immeasurable grief. These claims will bring divorce cases to a dead end, and it is these cases that are the cause of years of recalcitrance.”
And what do family courts say?
On the other side is the ruling recently handed down by the Tel Aviv District Court that upheld the verdict of a Family Court awarding NIS 700,000 (about $198,000) in damages from a man who anchored his wife for over 10 years.
In this ruling, the judges wrote: “We are looking at a woman who was held captive by the appellant, a man who has no good reason to give for the prison that he has built for his wife except for the fact that she once agreed to marry him…
"The appellant deprives and continues to deprive his wife of her happiness, deprives and continues to deprive her of establishing a new family, and, more specifically, he deprives and continues to deprive her of having children….This situation described is immoral and offends goes against the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom.”
In other words, the Rabbinic Court believes that women anchor themselves (because they do not agree to the “compromise” proposed by the husbands), and that the process of suing for damages exacerbates this “anchoring.”
We believe that the husband who refuses to give his wife a get is the one anchoring his wife, and that the Rabbinc Courts who legitimize the husband’s recalcitrance are the ones causing women to remain imprisoned.
Let the public decide.