Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New York Court Refuses Comity to Israeli Divorce Based On US Religious Decree

In Tsirlin v. Tsirlin, (NY Sup. Ct. Kings Co., May 14, 2008), a New York state trial court refused to recognize the validity of a divorce decree issued under unusual circumstances by an Israeli Rabbinical Court. The couple involved are Israeli citizens now living in New York. The Israeli decree was based on a religious divorce ("Get") issued by a rabbinical tribunal in Brooklyn. The Israeli court issued its decree after the husband's father presented the Brooklyn "Get" to the court. Neither party appeared before the Israeli tribunal. Subsequently, husband Alexander Tsirlin filed for divorce in New York, but wife Alla Tsirlin moved to dismiss on the ground that they were already divorced. The court rejected her motion, holding:
If this court were to sanction the utilization of a "Get" to circumvent the constitutional requirement that only the Supreme Court can grant a civil divorce, then a party who obtains a "Get" in New York could register it in a foreign jurisdiction and potentially, later on, rely on the"Get" to obtain a civil divorce in New York thereby rendering New York Stae's [sic.] Constitutional scheme as to a civil divorce ineffectual (New York State Constitution, Article 1 Section 9 . . . nor shall any divorce be granted otherwise by judicial proceedings). It would have the practical affect [sic.] of amending the Domestic Relations Law section 170 to provide a new grounds for divorce.
Today's New York Law Journal reports on the decision.