Recently I blogged on the difficulties experienced by some spouses left with no choice but to abide by New Jersey’s "no fault" divorce process. Looking at the husband in "Crazy, Stupid, Love", and discussing how, if the story there took place in New Jersey, he would have to get divorced simply because his wife wanted to. Now from the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" comes the story of a woman who was fined 200,000 shekels (approximately $56,000) by an Israeli court for refusing to divorce her husband, even after she was directed to do so by a Rabbinical court.
Interesting was the Israeli court’s rationale for the fine, deeming it to be sufficient compensation for the wife violating the husband’s autonomy. Also interesting was the wife’s rationale for refusing the divorce. While the husband proved to the court that his wife was infertile and, as a result, should be compelled to divorce him, the wife refused to grant the divorce or participate in the process because she believed that her husband (from whom she had separated years earlier) was simply interested in another woman. Showing just how stern the court was with its ruling, it held that the fine would stand even if the parties subsequently divorced by agreement, and that the wife could be subject to future fines if she continued in her non-compliance.
Obviously this situation would not occur in New Jersey with its no-fault divorce option. Further, although not an issue here since it was the husband who sought the divorce, it is worth noting the complexity and nuance involved with procuring a Jewish divorce. Under Jewish law, a "Get" is a bill of divorce that a husband gives to a wife in order to "free her" to remarry. A secular divorce will not do the trick, as the couple’s marital status will remain unchanged under Jewish tenet. We have blogged on this topic previously. Notably, in the United States, a wife may seek relief from a civil court for an Order directing the husband to grant the Get, such as via an action for specific performance since there really is not sufficient legal remedy to redress the wife’s injury including, among other things, her inability to remarry in the eyes of Jewish law. In the eyes of the New Jersey judiciary, compelling a husband to obtain a Get provides is for a secular purpose – the end of the marriage.
While such a situation is different from that described herein, both situations reflect the broad cultural and religious spectrum that underlies the divorce process domestically and abroad.