Thursday, August 18, 2011
Woman divorces brain-damaged husband
For first time in Israel, alternative rabbinical court allows woman to divorce 'ward' after seven years. 'I feel like I've come out of jail,' she says
For the first time in Israel, a woman will be allowed to divorce her dysfunctional husband thanks to a legal precedent.
An alternative rabbinical court granted the secular women the longed-for divorce, which she had not been entitled to by law. The precedent was achieved thanks to a new alternative halachic book of law presenting solutions for a variety of halachic conflicts.
The affair began in the late 1990s. A. and D., a young non-religious Jewish couple, got married in Europe, had four children and immigrated to Israel. Seven years ago, the husband had a serious heart attack and suffered irreversible brain damage.
Due to his condition, he was defined by a court as a "ward", and his wife was appointed as his legal guardian. She took care of him for two years and then decided she wanted to remarry and build a new life.
When she turned to a lawyer and asked to file for divorce, she encountered a complex legal problem: The divorce requires the agreement of both sides, and her husband is not legally competent to make decision. Although she is his guardian, she cannot sign on his behalf on an agreement she is a party to.
Her lawyer, Attorney Shalom Atli, turned to several famous rabbis, established an "alternative court" and asked them to look into the medical issue. Using halachic tools, the rabbis ruled that the husband was "alternately a ward", meaning that in some situations his level of sanity is sufficient.
Atli took this opinion to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and managed to convince the judges to rely on their colleagues' ruling and approve the divorce. A. was recently officially divorced.
"I feel like I have come out of jail," she told her friends.