The case of the day is Masri v. Masri (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2017). The parties were married, but separated, Orthodox Jews. The wife brought an action for divorce in the civil courts. Her husband refused to give her a get, a bill of divorce that would effect a divorce under Jewish law. Without a get the wife cannot remarry under religious law, and if she were to have children, they would be considered mamzerim, which would have bad consequences for their ability to marry under Jewish law. In short, the wife faced all kinds of religious problems on account of her husband’s refusal to give the get. This situation is the well-known problem of the agunah, or “chained woman,” which many Jewish groups have been trying to solve within the boundaries of Jewish divorce law.
The wife brought an action in the bet din, the Jewish court, seeking its aid in obtaining the get. Note that there was no prenuptial agreement to arbitrate, let alone to arbitrate in the bet din. The husband refused to participate, arguing that the wife had waived her right to go to the bet din by bringing the civil action for divorce. The bet din ruled that the issue of waiver was itself an issue that had to be decided by the bet din. The husband still refused to participate and was declared a “Rabbinical Court evader” (which has various bad effects on the evader’s standing in the Jewish community, but is not akin to a default judgment).
In the civil case, the wife asked the court to award spousal support in the amount of $2,000 per month “until such time as the [husband] removes barriers to the [wife’s] remarriage and gives the wife] a ‘standard’ and ‘unconditional’ Jewish Divorce, or Get.”
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