Jerusalem is second in the number of divorce cases with 640 couples (-10%), followed by Rishon Lezion with 435 couples (+3.5%), Haifa with 425 (-4%) and Beersheba with 362 (-1%).
A significant rise in the number of divorce cases was recorded in Modiin (25%) and Ashkelon (20%), while a significant drop was seen in Nahariya (25%), Ness Ziona (24%) and Afula (24%).
Overall, the rabbinical courts' report points to a 3.5% drop in the number of divorcing couples in Israel – from 9,986 in 2009 to 9,640 in 2010.
This downside trend began two years ago: In 2008 the number of divorce cases exceeded the 10,000 mark for the first time, and has been dropping since then.
Fewer agunot released
The figures also reveal a sharp drop in rabbinical courts' success in releasing agunot ("chained" women) from their marriages. According to the report, 77 agunot were "released" and allowed to marry other men in 2010 after their husbands were located in Israel or abroad and convinced to grant them a divorce, compared to 162 cases in 2009 (-53%).
The courts' figures do not include all women refused a divorce, as some of them are not defined by the courts as agunot, but they point to the judges' extent of success in getting them a divorce.
According to the courts, agunot are women whose husbands do not show up for court discussion, as they have escaped, disappeared or are in jail. Women whose husbands were found but refuse to grant them a divorce are not considered agunot and are not handled by the courts' special unit.
The rabbinical courts' management noted that men who escaped due to divorce claims or other reasons (for example, financial) and abandoned their women were dealt with a slew of sanctions and measures aimed at locating them.
According to a senior official, five private investigation companies were used against these husbands, messengers were sent overseas, cross-continent negotiations were held and "virtual or real sanctions" were imposed – until the men gave up and agreed to divorce their wives.
Thirty-six verdicts were delivered last year against divorce recalcitrants, compared to 44 in 2009 – an 18% drop.
The sanctions imposed on these men included stay of exist orders, depriving them of a bank account, depriving them of a driver's license, preventing their appointment to a public position and preventing conditions from criminal prisoners who are also divorce refusers.
The numbers of order issued against such husbands saw a 50% rise – from six to nine, in addition to a 57% increase in the number of restraining orders given to women against their violent husbands from 58 to 91.
Drop in High Court intervention
An analysis of the data points to a growing workload on the courts, with more cases opened in each of the past four years (in a wide variety of issues) than closed. In 2010, 83,488 cases were opened compared to 80,500 which were closed.
Additional statistics, presented by the rabbinical courts' legal advisor, Attorney Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, show that the past decade recorded a gradual decline in civil courts' intervention in rulings and verdicts delivered by the rabbinical courts. This phenomenon is defined by Yaakobi as "a quiet revolution".
From 2002 to 2004, for example, the High Court overturned 25% of appealed verdicts, from 2005 to 2007 it overturned only 6% of verdicts, and from 2008 to 2010 – 5%.
"Sometimes the High Court's intervention in one case is critical and sweeping – like canceling the courts' authority to engage in arbitration – and is reasonable against dozens of petitions denied," said Attorney Yaakobi.
"But on the other hand, we can see the mutual respect of the courts to honor the rules in each one, and the mutual internalization of the acceptable legal and halachic tools in the tough area of family law."
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