Jewish divorce ruled OK in landmark High Court decision

By Marcus Dysch, February 1, 2013
The Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: Anthony M)

The Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: Anthony M)

A landmark legal ruling has seen the High Court refer a Jewish divorce case to a Beth Din for arbitration for the first time.

The decision, the first of its kind in England and Wales, saw a get - a Jewish divorce - given by the New York Beth Din approved by Mr Justice Baker.

The judge ruled that the Beth Din ruling would be accepted by rabbinical courts and Orthodox shuls worldwide.

The case involved an Orthodox Jewish couple who had married in 2006 and initially lived in Israel before moving to London when their first child was born.

They planned to move to Toronto but after the birth of their second child the marriage broke down and the couple separated in 2009.

Disputes arose over access to the children. The father pursued a child abduction case under the Hague Convention, but before that hearing came to court the couple asked the New York Beth Din to consider their disputes.

When the case proceeded through the English court system, Mr Justice Baker agreed that the couple's arbitration under the Beth Din would be better than further litigation in Britain. He examined the Beth Din's principles and ensured they matched English law.

The Beth Din had published its full ruling in 2011, but a final settlement was only made last year, with the High Court judgment released this week.

In making the judgment, the judge however ruled that the Beth Din result could not be legally binding in England, in order that it not supersede English law.

Mr Justice Baker said: "The outcome was in keeping with English law, whilst achieved by a process rooted in Jewish culture to which the families belong."

The ruling could pave the way for English and Welsh divorces to be settled in other religious courts, such as using Sharia law to end Muslim marriages.

Last updated: 10:27am, February 1 2013