Justice for an Agunah
Divorce recalcitrant to pay NIS 700,000
Haredi (ultra orthodox) couple lived together for three months before woman fled home
pregnant due to domestic violence. Husband has refused to grant wife a
divorce for more than 11 years
The Israeli Family Court on Wednesday ordered a man to pay his wife some NIS
700, Protected content $187, Protected content damages for refusing to give her a divorce for
The woman filed a claim for punitive damages against her husband, demanding
that he compensate her over his refusal to grant her a divorce. The two, an
ultra-Orthodox couple, were wed in Protected content a matchmaker marriage and lived
together for only three months before the woman fled the house pregnant due
to harsh domestic violence.
Since then, the husband has refused to grant her a divorce, despite 25
discussions of the matter at the Rabbinical Court between the years Protected content
2005. The man did not show up for most hearings, and when he did, it was
only after a habeas corpus was issued against him.
The Rabbinical Court had ruled that there was no room for a joint life
between the couple and that the husband must grant his wife a divorce.
The woman claimed, however, that the husband was intentionally refusing to
give her a divorce, knowing this caused her great agony as she is a haredi
woman who, as an abandoned wife, cannot start a relationship with other men
and give birth to additional children.
The woman told the Rabbinical Court the husband set new conditions for the
divorce, like waiving child support and erasing national insurance debts,
relinquishing custody of the child, and additional demands.
Attorney Susan Weiss, founder and executive director of The Center for
Women's Justice (CWJ), and Attorney Yifat Frankenburg appealed to the Family
Court, claiming that denying the divorce subjected the woman to prolonged
psychological abuse and prevented her from leading a reasonable and normal
life, by forcibly and illegally using the defendant's right to abandon the
woman and depriving the wife of her freedom, as well as negligence.
After reviewing the circumstances of the case, Judge Tova Sivan ruled that
there was no doubt the man was a divorce recalcitrant who has been deriving
his wife of her freedom for more than 11 years.
Thus, she ordered the man to pay his wife some NIS 60, Protected content a year
in damages – a total of NIS 600, Protected content – as well as NIS 100,000
($26, Protected content increased compensation due to the severity of his acts.
Knesset Member Menachem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), chairman of the Constitution,
Law and Justice Committee, said in response to the court ruling, "On the one
hand I hail the Family Court for taking into account the ongoing injustice
suffered by abandoned women, and hope this new line answers the distress the
Constitution Committee has been dealing with thoroughly.
"On the other hand, I would like to warn the Rabbinical Courts not to view
these verdicts as verdicts which should not be accepted for some reason."