The woman filed a claim for punitive damages against her husband, demanding that he compensate her over his refusal to grant her a divorce. The two, an ultra-Orthodox couple, were wed in 1997 in a matchmaker marriage and lived together for only three months before the woman fled the house pregnant due to harsh domestic violence.
Since then, the husband has refused to grant her a divorce, despite 25 discussions of the matter at the Rabbinical Court between the years 1997 and 2005. The man did not show up for most hearings, and when he did, it was only after a habeas corpus was issued against him.
The Rabbinical Court had ruled that there was no room for a joint life between the couple and that the husband must grant his wife a divorce.
The woman claimed, however, that the husband was intentionally refusing to give her a divorce, knowing this caused her great agony as she is a haredi woman who, as an abandoned wife, cannot start a relationship with other men and give birth to additional children.
The woman told the Rabbinical Court the husband set new conditions for the divorce, like waiving child support and erasing national insurance debts, relinquishing custody of the child, and additional demands.
Attorney Susan Weiss, founder and executive director of The Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), and Attorney Yifat Frankenburg appealed to the Family Court, claiming that denying the divorce subjected the woman to prolonged psychological abuse and prevented her from leading a reasonable and normal life, by forcibly and illegally using the defendant's right to abandon the woman and depriving the wife of her freedom, as well as negligence.
After reviewing the circumstances of the case, Judge Tova Sivan ruled that there was no doubt the man was a divorce recalcitrant who has been deriving his wife of her freedom for more than 11 years.
Thus, she ordered the man to pay his wife some NIS 60,000 ($16,040) a year in damages – a total of NIS 600,000 ($160,404) – as well as NIS 100,000 ($26,734) as increased compensation due to the severity of his acts.
Knesset Member Menachem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said in response to the court ruling, "On the one hand I hail the Family Court for taking into account the ongoing injustice suffered by abandoned women, and hope this new line answers the distress the Constitution Committee has been dealing with thoroughly.
"On the other hand, I would like to warn the Rabbinical Courts not to view these verdicts as verdicts which should not be accepted for some reason."