Jailed businessman was not a 'get refuser', beth din said

The case of Alan Moher, convicted of coercive behaviour earlier this month, reveals differences between secular courts and Orthodox authorities over divorce


A man jailed for mistreatment of his wife that included withholding a get was unable to give it because his hands were tied by Jewish law, according to his brother.

Alan Alti Moher, a Manchester businessman, received an 18-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to coercive or controlling behaviour at Southwark Crown Court earlier this month.

Prevention of a get was not his only admission; the charge included the use or threat of violence against his former wife Caroline on two or more occasions and exerting unreasonable financial control over her.

But his brother Howard says that the Manchester Beth Din did not consider Alan Moher a “get refuser” in the eyes of Jewish law.

The rabbis also had problems with a court order for him to make payments to her until the granting of a get, which they believed could conflict with halachic requirements for a get to be given voluntarily and not under pressure.

The case exposes the potential for divergence between the secular judicial system and Orthodox rabbinical authorities.

Alan and Caroline Moher, who married in 1995 and have three children, separated early in 2016 when she filed for divorce.

According to the Manchester Beth Din, Mrs Moher applied to start get proceedings in 2016 but then postponed it. When she returned in 2018, she was advised that the get should be dealt with once financial issues were settled.

In 2018, the Family Court made an order for Alan Moher to pay his wife £1.4 million (£440,000 more than he had offered). The judge also required him to make regular payments to Caroline amounting to £22,000 a year until he had both paid the lump sum - with any interest accruing - and given her a get.

But Mr Moher appealed, arguing among other things that tying payments to the get was in effect forcing his hand, which would render any get invalid in Jewish law.

The Appeal Court, however, ruled against him in 2019 - the year when the couple were finally divorced under civil law. The presiding judge, Lord Justice Moylan, noted the previous view of the Family Court that the case had become “far more complex than it need have been, largely due to the failures of the husband to provide adequate disclosure and his lack of adherence to court orders”.

As for the get, he noted that under legislation introduced in 2002, the courts had the power to delay a civil divorce until a religious divorce was arranged, that would leave both parties free to remarry.

“In the same way in this case, the husband is not being compelled to grant a get,” Lord Justice Moylan said. “How he responds to the order is a matter for him… The court order provides only that until he grants a get, he has to pay periodical payments to the wife.”

But the Manchester Beth Din took a different view. According to a witness statement from its head Dayan Yehuda Steiner in October 2021 ,which was prepared for the impending criminal case, the Beth Din concluded the £22,000 a year payments were “coercive and punitive in nature” and “intended to force a get”.

The court order made it “problematic for Mr Moher to give a get in any Beth Din,” the dayan said. The Manchester Beth Din would “not categorise Mr Moher at this stage as a get refuser”.

The MBD was not the only rabbinical court involved. Mrs Moher moved to London and the Federation of Synagogues Beth Din took over.

In an email to Mr Moher’s solicitor last year, the registrar of the Federation Beth Din, Rabbi Alan Lewis, summarised its position.

“If a husband is coerced into giving a get,” he explained, “the divorce is considered to have been done under duress and is completely invalid as a matter of Jewish law.”

However, there were “some circumstances in which Jewish law allows for a husband to be compelled to give a get”. To determine that, the Beth Din would need to investigate and hear both parties.

A husband could be required to continue to make payments until he gives a get in some circumstances - but again that would need a hearing at the Beth Din, Rabbi Lewis explained.

While the Beth Din had offered a hearing, he said, Mrs Moher had declined it, saying she had been advised there was “no point attending the Beth Din because Mr Moher is not yet prepared to give a get”.

However, the Mohers had appeared close to settling their differences because at one point a get ceremony was arranged at the Federation, only to fall through at the last minute.

Last summer Mr Moher wrote to the Federation to ask it to sort out a get, in the wake of a private prosecution launched against him by Mrs Moher.

But Rabbi Lewis responded that since criminal proceedings had begun before any hearing at the Beth Din to decide whether Mr Moher should be compelled to give a get, “your consent to give a get must be presumed to be given under duress, something which invalidates any get that would be given.”

The Federation could only suggest that he return to the Beth Din “once the proceedings in your case are concluded”.

During the sentencing hearing at Southwark earlier this month, Mrs Moher’s lawyers referred to an offer Mr Moher had made at one stage to grant her a get if she accepted £700,000 - or £780,000 without the get.

Mr Moher’s counsel, Jeffrey Israel, told the court that it was unfortunately common for the granting of a get to be used as “a negotiating chip”.

Howard Moher - who lives in the USA - offered an explanation for his brother’s action. The £780,000 was the outstanding amount he owed to Mrs Moher at the time. Just under £80,000 of that related to the payments he had been ordered to make by the Family Court until a get was given, which he considered halachically problematic; if they were removed, so would the obstacle to a get.

Alan Moher therefore proposed to his wife’s representatives  his brother said, that “if they weren’t bothered by not getting the get, he would pay the £780,000, but if they wanted a get he would pay £700,000” - in other words, minus the £80,000 “penalty”.

Howard Moher said, “It seemed reasonable to assume that if Caroline Moher’s team had accepted the £700,000, they could have the Family Court order altered to reflect this and the beth din would then have had no reason not to grant the get.”

By this stage, Howard Moher added, his brother “had started to think about life after the divorce. He met somebody and needed the get issue to be resolved too, if things were to move forward.”

But Mrs Moher’s counsel Anthony Metzer told Southwark Crown Court that they did not accept Mr Moher had made “any genuine effort to provide the get, notwithstanding any anticipated defence submissions that the responsibility for his refusal to do so lies with any of the batei din.”

Mr Moher, he said, had “engineered a position where he may falsely claim to be ‘under duress’” of the courts.

He had also tried to put pressure on Mrs Moher to drop the criminal charge, Mr Metzer said.

The Federation said it would not comment on “individual, private cases. Generally, though, the Beth Din will continue to advise and assist all those who turn to it, and to do its utmost to achieve the procurement of a halachically valid get in even the most challenging of circumstances.”

The JC understands that Mrs Moher’s case is now under consideration by the London Beth Din.

Shortly after her ex-husband’s sentencing, on the steps of the court she said that while she awaited her get, “in his eyes he therefore has not relinquished his last remnant of control over me….

“I sincerely hope Alti will be able to let go of our past as I have, present me with a get and we can both move on to happier and healthier lives.”

READ MORE: 'Sadistic' man who 'tormented' his wife is first in England to be jailed over get refusal

The legal net is closing on men who refuse a religious divorce

Businessman loses appeal to avoid having to pay maintenance to wife until he gives a get

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