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212-321-7092

Husband Sanctioned for Israeli Divorce Scheme

A husband who obtained a divorce or “Get” from a rabbinical court in Israel -and persuaded legal authorities there to forbid his wife from leaving Israel unless she submitted to the court's authority-has been fined $10,000 and assessed more than $12,000 to pay his wife's attorney fees and expenses. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Rigler ruled that the husband, by initiating the legal action in Israel after the wife filed for divorce in the United States, “attempted to thwart the tenor and spirit of [a court order and] divest the court of its asserted jurisdiction” over the marriage. The wife, Rachel Schaeffer, in Schaeffer v. Schaeffer, 23111/99, commenced a divorce action in 1999. Later that year, the husband, Allan Schaeffer, stipulated to a court order allowing his wife to travel to Israel, with the couple's children, for a wedding in her family. Ms. Schaeffer then sought a contempt finding since her husband failed to make support payments. Mr. Schaeffer did not appear for a hearing on the motion. When Ms. Schaeffer went to Israel to attend the marriage of her brother, she found herself in a bind, since the rabbinical court issued a restraining order barring her from leaving Israel unless she signed an affidavit discontinuing divorce proceedings in New York. Justice Rigler said that Mr. Schaeffer had manipulated events to place his wife in the position of having to submit to the rabbinical court's authority and dismiss her divorce proceedings in New York. “The central focus of this dispute is the activity planned and executed by the Defendant-husband, designed to circumvent this court's order,” Justice Rigler wrote. “Defendant-husband…signed a stipulation that was to allow the Plaintiff-wife to travel for a happy family occasion. Instead of honoring his agreement, made in court, he carried out a plan to divest this court of its jurisdiction.” Justice Rigler sactioned Mr. Schaeffer $10,000, payable to the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance. He also ordered him to pay $10,000 in attorney's fees and more then $2,400 in travel expenses. Justice Rigler acted under §130 of the New York Court Rules and Regulations, authorizing judges to impose sanctions and award costs when a party engages in conduct “undertaken primarily…to harass or maliciously injure another.” Mr. Schaeffer, Justice Rigler said, used his lawyer and the court as “pawn[s]” in a scheme to force his wife into a settlement not possible under New York Law. When Ms. Schaeffer went to Israel to attend the marriage of her brother, she found herself in a bind, since the rabbinical court issued a restraining order barring her from leaving Israel unless she signed an affidavit discontinuing divorce proceedings in New York.

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