High Court upholds near one million shekel fine for failure to divorce
The fine was issued to the father of the man who refused the divorce, as he was found to be the direct cause of the son’s refusal.
By JEREMY SHARON | MAY 6, 2020
The High Court of Justice has upheld a fine of NIS 5,000 a day issued by the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court against the father of a recalcitrant husband who has refused to give his wife a divorce for over seven years.
The father has been found by the rabbinical court to be the direct cause behind the son’s refusal to grant his wife a divorce leading to the unprecedented fine against someone who is not a litigant in the divorce suit by the court.
The father, a wealthy US businessman from the Erlau hassidic community, initially appealed the fine to the Supreme Rabbinical Court and then appealed the legitimacy of the ruling to the High Court of Justice, but that appeal was rejected on Tuesday.
The case involves an American couple who were on a a trip to Israel some 13 years ago.
During the visit, the wife suffered a medical brain trauma leaving her permanently disabled, following which her husband eventually abandoned her and their children in Israel, returned to the US and refused to grant her a divorce ever since.
The Tel Aviv rabbinical court ruled nearly seven years ago that the man was obligated to grant a divorce, but he has ignored the ruling to this day.
When the rabbinical court investigated his motivation in refusing to grant the divorce for so long, it discovered that his father, a well known and very wealthy businessman from the US ultra-Orthodox community who has donated significantly to the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community and the Erlau community in particular, was behind his son’s divorce recalcitrance.
It is thought by the woman’s legal team that the husband was somehow insulted and angered by her request for a divorce after he behaved inappropriately while visiting her before the marriage broke down and he abandoned her.
According to Attorney Osnat Sharon of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline for agunot representing the woman, the father has backed up his son’s recalcitrance, provides him with accommodation, funds his expensive legal team from New York, and provides him with income.
It is for this reason that Sharon and her legal team petitioned the rabbinical court to sanction the father.
The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court accepted the petition, and when the father and his wife came to Israel for a visit in 2016, the court issued an order banning them from leaving the country and summoned them to give testimony to the court.
The court at one stage even sentenced the father to 30 days imprisonment, although subsequently changed this penalty to the NIS 5,000 fine a day fine in August 2018.
Both the Supreme Rabbinical Court and the High Court have given backing on several occasions to the original ruling of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court
The High Court wrote in its ruling on Tuesday that the total fines against the father now amount to NIS 920,000.
Sharon said however that that total was out of date and that the total fine should be significantly higher given that more than 18 months have passed since the original fine was issued by the Tel Aviv rabbinical court.