Open Doors - Women testimonies from the Rabbinical courts

Name:

Avigal

"The Head of the Rabbinical Court tried hard to make peace between us."

Age: 30

Time spent fighting for Get: 1 years

Year of Get: 2016

The first time I arrived at the court to obtain a restraining order, I was alone, without a lawyer. I was so confused, it isn’t that I didn’t know what I was going to do I did know, but the experience of entering a place like this… It was confusing and I recoiled. Thankfully there was a kind secretary at the reception, and she explained how the proceedings work. Afterward, I went into the hearing and requested what I needed and I received the restraining order immediately.

Really, I didn’t know what would be my path, I knew the situation was bad, and that I could not continue the way things were. But I didn’t consider myself as a divorcee, really not. On one hand, I didn’t know what I really wanted.  

After perhaps two months, my husband began divorce proceedings. His objective was to force me to return home. There were discussions related to Shalom Bayit and other secondary issues. I asked for alimony but from the beginning, there was no discussion since this would “harm” our Shalom Bayit.

After a four-month separation, we both returned home. During this same period, I still did not know what I wanted for myself. My husband pressured me, other people who lived around us intervened, and the court encouraged us to return. They didn’t pressure us or tell us what to do, but they directed us to return home. They also recommended a therapist to guide us. If I’m not mistaken, they actually recommended three different therapists. Each time, my husband had a different complaint. The therapist wanted justification for the complaint, and each therapist wanted an opinion from the prior therapist.

So we were together again for half a year and during this time no decisions were made and our case was frozen. But, problems that always exist and are not treated become worse. After half a year, I again left home for the last time. I still didn’t intend to divorce. There was repeated violence from which I suffered until I was at the end of my rope. There was non-stop shouting, quarreling, and beatings. One time I had the courage to call my parents and tell them what happened. They came and took me with them. I was confused and helpless. I didn’t have any idea of what to do.

Less than three months after that we reopened the court case for both support and to arrange for protection. I’m not sure if at this point there was further discussion about Shalom Beit or divorce. I didn’t want any further connection with him, and yet when we spoke through intermediaries, I set the condition that should we ever return home, there would have to be extensive therapy. 

During this time, I was in a zig-zag pattern, and he would agree and then not agree to go for therapy. The Beit Din was also involved but he wouldn’t take a stand. Whenever one of us would suggest the name of a therapist, the Beit Din said, “ok, go see him”, but if one of us was opposed the court said, “OK, you are opposed.” The court just went along with us.

After half a year, the court sent us to a division due to my husbands’ continued negativity. There we met with a social worker. Perhaps we met once or twice, I can’t exactly remember. The social worker helped me to understand there’s nothing for me to expect from this marriage. After half a year of deliberation and uncertainty, the concluding statement of the social worker was that the therapy I underwent myself showed that I really wasn’t interested in continuing the marriage. 

I told this to the Beit Din and they scheduled a meeting for three months later. Only then did I decide to ask for a Get. I thought it was good that the procedure took so long because it gave me time to come to terms with my decision. From the moment I decided that I wanted a Get, I thought that it was good that this decision was not made in haste.

During the initial divorce proceeding, I remember that two of the judges really agreed with me. The third judge who was the head of the court tried to persuade us to make peace. He sat with me alone, then with my husband, and then with both of us together. At this point, it was clear that the marriage was over.

I made it very clear to the Judge, as best as I could but he tried to convince me otherwise. Luckily, he didn’t make a decision, but he tried. 

During this time, the Head of Court changed. With the new Judge, I was certain that everything would be fine. He was caring and responsive. From that point on there was a hearing every three weeks. The judges worked very hard, and I felt that their purpose was to grant me a Get. They were obligated to do so. There were a few times, maybe three that my ex didn’t arrive and so he was slapped with a large fine. I understood from my lawyer that this was an unusual action. The next time, the fine would be increased so that he would give the get. 

In general, the assistance I received from the Judges was excellent. I understand that this specific Beit Din was excellent, but in other cases, it is completely different. I felt I was heard, and they really read the material before coming to judgment, especially since I wasn’t new to them. I felt they weren’t just going through the motions and that was it. They did this wholeheartedly. I felt I was treated fairly, and I wasn’t forced to do something I didn’t want to do.

Finally, there was agreement. But on the day of the Get, we were in court 8 hours; hours of rough fighting, because he didn’t want to give me the Get. This was horrible. We enlisted the help of some judges to speak to him, and some of his family that they should speak with him, and the Court went through a great deal of effort. One of the Judges desperately tried to get him to grant the divorce, he worked so patiently. 

Today I am finally divorced for three months.

"On the day of the Get, we were in court 8 hours; hours of rough fighting, because he didn’t want to give me the Get. This was horrible. We enlisted the help of some judges to speak to him, and some of his family that they should speak with him and the Court went through a great deal of effort. One of the Judges desperately tried to get him to grant the divorce, he worked so patiently."

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