Shabbat Parashat Bereshit | 5765
Court of Jurisdiction When the Litigants Are in Different Places - Based on Piskei Din Rabbaniim - vol. XV, pp. 152-155
Case: A couple married, bought an apartment, and had children in Israel, but then moved to the US. Some time later, the wife left the husband and returned to Israel with the children. She sued the husband for support for her and the children. At first, the husband’s brother represented him in court, but now the husband wants the case to be heard in the US, so that he can represent himself.
Ruling: In general, when litigants disagree where a case should be heard, the defendant’s request to hold it in his city is accepted (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 14:1). In this case, there is an additional reason to hear the case in the husband/defendant’s location, because they lived as a family in the US until the wife left. The Maharashdam (CM 386) rules that when two people had business dealings in one place and one of them left, then the plaintiff can force the defendant to have the case in his place, where the transactions took place. It is irrelevant that the couple also has a home in Israel, because if not for a fight between them, they would still be living in the US.
The wife’s claim that the case was already opened in Israel, with the husband authorizing his brother to represent him, is cogent. We have precedent in the Eidut L’Yaakov (41) that if the defendant came to the plaintiff’s place to litigate, he cannot demand to move the hearings unless he swears that he was unaware of his right that the case be heard in his location. However, this case is different. In the Eidut L’Yaakov’s case, convenience is the only serious reason for the defendant to prefer that the case be heard near him. However, in a case like ours, where the defendant does not arrive to start the case but sends a representative, he can claim that he prefers being able to attend the case personally and present his arguments to being represented by someone else. Our case is thus analogous to one where a litigant accepts upon himself a non-kosher dayan to hear a case, and, just as there, he can back out of the arrangement until the judgment is complete (Shulchan Aruch, CM 22:1).
The wife can invoke two partial claims. The Rama (ibid.) says that if the defendant asks to have the case where there are no effective dayanim, he can be forced to adjudicate in a place where there is a proper beit din. Since batei din in the US lack the authority to force litigants to adjudicate and follow their rulings, this situation applies partially. Therefore, we will freeze the husband’s assets in Israel until he upholds the US beit din’s ruling.
Regarding the support of the children, as they are in Israel, the Israeli batei din are responsible for their welfare, and their father has to adjudicate matters of their support in Israel.
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