Clarkson S. Fisher, Jr., J.s.c.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fisher
This case requires the court to visit an issue that has previously troubled our courts in matrimonial actions involving Orthodox Jews -- a husband's refusal to provide a "get". *fn1
Here, the parties were married on October 13, 1983 in Ramle, Israel, and have one child, Samantha. Plaintiff Sondra Faye Aflalo ("Sondra") has filed a complaint seeking a dissolution of the marriage. Defendant Henry Arik Aflalo ("Henry") has answered the complaint. The matter is on the court's active trial list and should be reached for trial in the very near future. Henry does not want a divorce and has taken action with The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada in New York City (the "Beth Din" *fn2) to have a hearing on his attempts at reconciliation.
The issues at hand came to critical mass when the parties engaged in a settlement conference on February 14, 1996, while awaiting trial in this court. At that time the court was advised by counsel that the matter was "98% settled" but that Henry had placed what Sondra viewed as an insurmountable obstacle to a complete resolution: he refused to provide a "get." Unlike what the court faced in Segal v. Segal, 278 N.J. Super. 218, 650 A.2d 996 (App.Div. 1994) and Burns v. Burns, 223 N.J. Super. 219, 538 A.2d 438 (Ch.Div. 1987), Henry was not using his refusal to consent to the "get" as a means of securing a more favorable resolution of the issues before this court. That type of conduct the Burns court rightfully labelled "extortion". 223 N.J. Super. at 224. On the contrary, Henry's position (as conveyed during the settlement conference) was that regardless of what occurs in this court he will not consent to a Jewish divorce.
COUNSEL'S MOTION To BE RELIEVED
Henry's position spun off an unexpected problem; it caused his attorney to move to be relieved as counsel. Arguing that since he, too, is a practicing Orthodox Jew, Pomper Certification (February 19, 1996), P4, Henry's counsel claims that he would "definitely have a religious problem representing a man who at the Conclusion of a divorce proceeding refused, without reason, to give his wife a Get." Id., P7.
This motion was heard on an expedited basis. At oral argument on February 20, 1996, Henry's counsel expanded on his position and indicated, upon questioning from the court, that his religious quandary comes not from Henry's use of his consent to a Jewish divorce as leverage in negotiations (which was not occurring), but in the blanket refusal of his client to give a "get" without reason.
Henry opposed his attorney's motion. He stated under oath that he seeks a reconciliation and that Sondra had been summoned to appear before the Beth Din for this purpose. The court was also advised during oral argument that should reconciliation fail the Beth Din could recommend that Henry give Sondra a "get"; Henry stated under oath that while he desires a reconciliation he would follow the recommendations of the Beth Din and give the "get" if that was the end result of those proceedings. The court finds Henry both credible and sincere in this regard; his position clearly eliminates his counsel's stated concerns *fn3
PLAINTIFF'S ATTEMPTS IN THIS COURT
The problem, however, festers since Sondra appears unwilling to settle this case without a "get". Accordingly, this court must now lay to rest whether any order may be entered which would impact on Sondra's securing of a Jewish divorce.
Sandra claims that this court, as part of the judgment of divorce which may eventually be entered in this matter, may and should order Henry to cooperate with the obtaining of a Jewish divorce upon pain of Henry having limited or supervised visitation of Samantha or by any other coercive means. She claims that Minkin v. Minkin, 180 N.J. Super. 260, 434 A.2d 665 (Ch.Div. 1981) authorizes this court to order Henry to consent to the Jewish divorce. That trial court decision certainly supports her view. This court, ...