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Sunday, March 24, 2013 

A victory for how marriage/divorce cases will be managed

The High Court has ruled that Rabbinical courts cannot have the final say in post-divorce issues:
Israel's High Court of Justice ruled Thursday that any legal discussions of property or children following a rabbinical decree of divorce will be heard only in family courts, and not by the rabbinical courts, as it has been in the past. The decision represents one more step towards distancing issues of marriage and divorce from the rabbinic court system.

Ruling on a petition by the Legal Aid Department of the Justice Ministry, Jerusalem District, against the Supreme Rabbinical Court, the High Court said that a rabbinical court's jurisdiction on matters pertaining to a divorce decree will not extend to its follow-up proceedings, such as the issue of child custody, division of property and alimony payments. Those will be decided by the family courts, which will maintain sole jurisdiction on such matters.

In a detailed verdict from a High Court panel of seven judges, headed by Chief Justice Asher Grunis, the court addressed the issue well-known to many nonreligious couples who, by virtue of the law in the State of Israel, must turn to the rabbinical courts for divorce, despite the fact that many of these couples have no interest in such proceedings. The court also reiterated the independent status of minors connected with the divorce and their right to freedom of choice within the litigation.

The ruling means that couples who are interested in getting a divorce in the shortest and most effective manner can turn to a rabbinical court for the divorce decree without fearing that the court will extend its power to rule on matters of alimony and the custody of minors.
I don't know about civil marriages, but civil divorces are something that definitely needed addressing - specifically, if a woman wants to divorce and the husband balks out of spite, she should not have to receive a "get" the slang for a divorce agreement from the selfish pseudo-hubby. The same also goes for cases where the hubby wants a divorce and the wife is the one balking. I'm not sure if this ruling covers that problem entirely, but this is a good step in that direction, and neither husband nor wife should have to be held hostage to religious customs if either side acts out of spite towards the other. So, I hope they'll make sure to provide a clear ruling on such an issue as that too.

Update: in this article on the subject, they speak of a divorce proceeding where the rabbinical courts basically overreached their authority, and says that:
In the past the Rabbinical Court continued to deal with such cases for years after the divorce had been granted, regardless of the law. The law states that couples cannot be forced to deal with divorce matters in a Rabbinical Court unless they were explicitly part of the initial divorce claim.
Which was basically a violation of state laws, and for that, I do believe some rabbinical court judges should be disbarred.

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