Beit Midrash

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Freezing of Assets for Spousal Reconciliation

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Various Rabbis

5772
Case: The couple in question has appeared before beit din for years, originally with the wife demanding divorce and the husband demanding reconciliation. More recently they signed a divorce agreement, which granted the wife a lot of property, and it received the status of a court ruling when the secular regional court signed it. Now they are back in beit din, once again disagreeing on whether they will or will not get divorced, with the husband claiming that the agreement was done in order to prevent creditors from seizing his assets. Beit din ordered a temporary freeze on the assets until completion of the deliberations. The regional court disallowed the freeze that related to the agreement that they approved.

Ruling : The secular regional court has no right to try to undo beit din’s order, as the two courts have equal jurisdiction, and any discrepancy between the two must be resolved by the Supreme Court. The appeal that is before the Supreme Court is surprising, considering that the lawyers for both sides agreed to the temporary freeze.
In general, the secular court’s authority to approve divorce agreements is based on The Law of Monetary Relations Between Spouses, which applies to beit din as well. A divorce agreement, by its nature, is linked to the eventuality of divorce. If the couple no longer agrees on divorce, then it is not enforceable. Since the religious court has exclusive jurisdiction regarding whether there is an obligation of divorce and there has been no decision that there needs to be divorce, the secular court may not give a ruling to carry out the divorce agreement.
There are two elements to the monetary relations between spouses. One is of partners in property. The other is of monetary arrangements that allow for the proper functioning of the family unit. Some of the monetary arrangements, including elements of the ketuba, are matters that the Rabbis did not allow to be tampered with, even by agreement of the sides. Therefore, as part of its jurisdiction over matters related to the viability of the family unit, beit din must be given jurisdiction to rule unless and until there is a decision for divorce. They certainly have the right and obligation to render a temporary restraining order when the basic relationship is directly affected.
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