In a precedent set on Monday by the Jerusalem Family Court, Judge Ben Zion Greenberger ruled that a husband who refused to give his wife a divorce for nine years will compensate her with NIS 550,000 (about $158,532.5).
In an unprecedented ruling, the judge said that even if a husband is not required by the court to give his wife a divorce, he will still compensate her for his refusal on the matter.
The precedent was set in the case of an ultra-Orthodox woman who began the proceedings towards a divorce in 1998. The woman, who was physically abused by her husband and forced to flee her home with three children in tow, reached the High Rabbinical Court, where judges ruled the husband must give her a divorce.
But two years after this ruling the husband continued to refuse the divorce, and the woman appealed to the Family Court, demanding compensation for the distress her husband had caused her over the years, and for the denial of her right to marry again and go on with her life.
Prior to this precedent, courts had ruled that damages should be paid from the moment of the divorce's finalization, but the new ruling allows the wife to sue for damages for all the years in which her husband refused to give her a divorce, including the years her law suit spends pending in courts.
Women's organizations commended the precedent. "It would seem that the civil courts have finally begun to realize that the rabbinical courts take too long in enforcing divorces, and have decided to treat the women justly," the woman's attorney, Ifat Frankenbourg of the Center for Women's Justice, told Ynet.
According to Frankenbourg, in many cases women do not receive their divorce because the rabbinical courts refrain from forcing it upon the husband.
"This is a huge step taken by the civil courts in order to compensate for the rabbinical courts' failure to solve divorce conflicts," she concluded.