Tag: jewish divorce

Religious Education, Child Custody & Stephens’ Squibs

Choosing between a secular and religious education is a common problem in child custody cases. When two Canadian parents couldn’t decide between a religious or secular school for their son, an Ontario family court judge decided the issue with the force of Niagra Falls.

Custody Educaton

Oh Canada

In one recent case, the father and the mother, who were married then separated, disagreed on the school that their three-year-old child would attend.

The father wanted the child to go to the Thornhill Nursery School and Kindergarten, a secular school, while the mother preferred for the child to go to the Associated Hebrew Schools, a private Jewish school. Both parents were Jewish and were raising their child in the Jewish faith.

The father argued that their son had previously attended the secular school and would benefit from the stability of returning there, that the cost of this school was significantly lower and that the child could have a separate Jewish education on Sundays.

Conversely, the mother argues that she has always remained steadfast in her belief that it is best for Joshua to attend AHS, a private Jewish school.  She alleged that their son is Jewish as are both parents and both sets of grandparents.

Their son was being raised in the Jewish faith. that requiring the child to have a separate Jewish education on Sundays would limit his time with his family and friends, and would result in additional costs.

Florida Education and Child Custody

I’ve written about custody and education issues before. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s education are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court. At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child.

Determining the best interests of a child is based on an evaluation of statutory factors, and one equitable catch-all factor, affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

The statute authorizes one parent to have ultimate responsibility for certain decisions. For example, education is an area of ultimate responsibility a court can award. When a decision on education goes to trial, the court grants one parent ultimate responsibility to make that decision.

A CN Tower-ing Decision

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice decided that it was in the child’s best interests for his parents to enroll him at the Associated Hebrew Schools.

The Court based its decision on the best interest of the child. The best interest is not merely a label, but required the Ontario family court to consider the child’s needs and circumstances, including, the emotional ties between the child and each family, people involved in the child’s care and upbringing; and the child’s preferences among others.

The family law judge found that both parents agreed that the child should be in school despite the risk of Covid-19 and should be raised as a member of the Jewish faith.

Both schools were adequate educational facilities which have adequately addressed Covid-19 risks.  In terms of geographical proximity neither requires extensive travel and the child will experience change whichever school he attends.

The civil family judge in Canada reasoned the religious school was in the child’s best interest because it offers an academic education, religious instruction and Hebrew during the week.

This was preferable to the father’s request he be enrolled in a supplemental Jewish Program in addition to his secular school. The supplemental Jewish Program would occur on Sundays and parenting time is precious and weekend times are crucial.

The judge also determined that the cost of religious school was not significantly more than the secular for junior kindergarten.  While religious school tuition is $14,185, and secular school is $8,530, the added cost of the weekend supplemental Jewish Program raised the cost goes to $9,530.  And, religious tuition is eligible for a charitable tax receipt making the after-tax cost of tuition considerably lower.

Even when the parents are more closely aligned in their religious beliefs, sharp conflict can still arise over the form that the child’s religious education is to take, regarding religion and co-parenting arrangements.

The Ontario family court decision is available here.

Speaking on Stephens’ Squibs

I always enjoy talking with Eddie Stephens. Not surprisingly, I had a great time on Stephens’ Squibs, his monthly family law continuing legal education seminar where we discussed our recent constitutional victory in the appellate court – one of the rare times a divorce and family law case can turn on a constitutional question.

Episode 4, will be available on demand beginning November 15, 2020.

Learn more here.

 

Can You Lose Your Job in Divorce?

A court in Israel just ordered the nation’s largest commuter bus company to fire an employee because he refuses to divorce his wife. The company has 30-days to comply. Why would you lose your job for refusing to divorce? What if it is a religious divorce?

Religious Divorce

Divorce on One Foot

A Jewish couple from India, who have been married for over a decade, immigrated to Israel with their only child. The Husband has been accused of abusing his wife, and the situation worsened after they moved. Three years ago, the Wife filed for divorce, reconciled, and then renewed the religious divorce.

Israel’s divorce law is based on the Ottoman Empire’s old millet law. Unlike the United States, where divorces are handled by family courts, in Israel there are parallel courts involving divorce, the religious court and family court.

Additionally, divorce court may depend on which religious community you belong to because religious courts have jurisdiction of their own religious members. This means Muslims are divorced in Sharia courts, Christians divorce in ecclesiastical courts, and Jews divorce in Jewish courts.

In Judaism, religious law requires husbands to grant their wives a “get” – a Jewish bill of divorce to be a valid divorce. Ten months ago, a rabbinical court ordered the Husband to grant his Wife a divorce. But he refused, unless she waived her right to their joint property.

Florida Divorce and Religion

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce a few times. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are generally not considered in Florida divorces. Surprisingly for many, even when child custody is an issue, there are no specific statutory factors in determining custody on religious grounds.

Currently in Florida, child custody decisions are based in accordance with the best interests of the child.

As it relates to religion, Florida courts have decided that there must be a clear, affirmative showing that religious activities will be harmful to the child for religion to be a factor.

Egged On

The religious divorce court has imposed various financial sanctions on the Husband for refusing to divorce, including requiring him to pay his wife $410 a month as a sanction. But he still refuses to divorce her.

Last week, a panel of rabbinical judges granted the Wife’s request and ordered an Israeli bus company to fire the Husband within 30-days.

Yad L’Isha praised the decision. “Every creative solution like this gives great hope to other women that there are other ways to release them from the prison of their marriage”. Yad L’Isha is the world’s largest organization dedicated to helping women unable to obtain a Jewish divorce.

The Haaretz article is here.

Photo courtesy of Rickjpelleg