This case was decided a while ago, but I thought it was important to fill you in about it:
On March 11th, 2008, the Supreme Rabbinic Court issued a 26 page decision (all obiter dictum, the wife got a valid get after she sued for damages !!!!) in which it held that filing a tort claim against recalcitrant husbands invalidates the future, desired, and not yet given get. The bet din thinks women have to choose-- damages or get. They can't have both! Here is a choice excerpt from the bet din decision:
"All petitions filed outside the rabbinic court – like petitions to civil courts for damages — that relate to get refusal, whose practical consequence is to accelerate the delivery of the get, is an interference with the laws of the Torah regarding divorce, and effectively precludes the possibility of the execution of a [kosher] get…
Attorneys who deal in family law should be advised to weigh carefully their recommendations to clients to file damage claims in the family court for get-refusal. Such recommendations are tantamount to malpractice, and I doubt that attorneys could avoid such claims [of malpractice], even it if they were to sign their clients on waivers to that affect. It can be assumed that clients are not aware, and cannot possibly foresee, what serious consequences and delays can occur in the delivery of the get , even after the husband has agreed to give the get, if the husband's agreement [to give the get] was given subsequent to a petition for damages for get-refusal (J. Algrabli)."
CWJ's informal response:
1- Women do not have a choice about getting a get . Only men have that choice. Women are totally dependent on their husbands for a get, and can wait a lifetime till they are granted one. A lifetime is too long.
2- If a man intentionally abuses his religious right to withhold a get from his wife, he causes her a civil wrong. He is intentionally inflicting emotional distress. He is infringing on his wife's life, liberties, rights, and freedoms. That's why wives have the right to sue recalcitrant husbands for damages.
3- We think a woman is entitled to both a get and to damages if her husband does not give her a get within a reasonable time. 2 years is more than enough waiting time!!!.
4- CWJ will continue to file tort cases for our clients. Before the get and after the get. One has nothing to do with the other. If a client comes to our office who has not gotten a get although she is begging for one for years (our average case is 8 years), or if she has received a get only after many years of loneliness and isolation, we would be negligent if we did not file a tort case for her. She has been harmed and should be compensated for that harm..
5- Notwithstanding the above case and its broad -sweeping generalization, most rabbinic courts in Israel have been very constructive and practical in response to our specific tort cases and have found ways to execute halakhically valid gitten to our clients.We are sure they will continue to respond to the individual cases that come before them. As they did in the above case.