'Chained Man' Free As Court Pushes Divorce

The High Court said that sanctions placed on a woman who refused to accept a divorce from her husband were appropriate.

Moshe Cohen ,

Supreme Court
Supreme Court
David Vaaknin/POOL/Flash 90

While there are many examples of husbands who refuse to grant their wives a Jewish divorce – making those women agunot, or “chained women” who are not allowed to remarry, the opposite can also occur – and on Thursday, the High Court said that sanctions placed on a woman who refused to accept a divorce from her husband, rendering him unable to remarry under Israeli law, were appropriate.

As a result, the woman will have to pay NIS 2,000 a week in fines until she accepts the divorce. The money will go to the state treasury.

Women who refuse to accept their divorce, or get, usually do so for financial reasons, the Rabbinate said – either because they are receiving ongoing income from their estranged husband, or because they want a redistribution of wealth beyond what is specified in their marriage contract.

Under Jewish law, men in the modern era are not allowed to marry a second woman, as women are not allowed to marry another man until they received a proper Jewish divorce. While the phenomenon of men refusing to grant a get is more widespread, Rabbinate officials said that there were hundreds of cases of “chained men,” too.

In the case under consideration by the Court, the original divorce was approved by a Rabbinical Court in 2008 – but the woman refused to willingly accept the document, as required by Jewish law. Her husband brought several actions against her in Rabbinical Court, but to no avail, eventually suing her and receiving a judgment against her in 2013, with sanctions issued by the Rabbinical Court.

The woman, however, refused to pay the sanctions – and petitioned the High Court against them, claiming that the Rabbinical Court had no authority to sanction her. On Thursday, High Court justice Miriam Naor said she disagreed – confirming the Rabbinical Court decision and imposing the NIS 2,000 weekly fine on the woman.

According to Naor, “After examining the case I found no cause to cancel these sanctions. The divorce was granted seven years ago, and has still not been fulfilled. The defendant has not shown, at least until now, any valid reason for her refusal to accept the divorce.”

In a statement, the Chief Rabbinate said that the sanctions were an “important tool” in motivating recalcitrant husbands and wives to free their spouses.



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