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Avitzur v. Avitzur

446 N.E.2d 136, 459 N.Y.S.2d 572 (1983)

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Avitzur v. Avitzur

New York Court of Appeals

446 N.E.2d 136, 459 N.Y.S.2d 572 (1983)

Facts

In 1966, Susan R. Avitzur (plaintiff) and Boaz Avitzur (defendant) signed a Ketubah in accordance with their Jewish faith prior to their marriage ceremony. The Ketubah provided that the Avitzurs intended to be married under Jewish law. The Ketubah also provided that the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Assembly had the authority to summon either party to appear before a Beth Din, which was a rabbinical tribunal with the power to adjudicate matters of Jewish law. In 1978, Susan and Boaz were granted a civil divorce. Susan then sought to receive a Jewish divorce decree from the Beth Din. The Beth Din required Susan and Boaz to appear before the tribunal before granting the Jewish divorce decree. Boaz refused. Susan sued Boaz in a civil court. Susan argued that the Ketubah constituted an enforceable marital contract, under which Boaz agreed to appear before the Beth Din if summoned. Susan requested a declaration that the Ketubah may receive legal effect and an order mandating specific performance. Boaz argued that Susan’s complaint must be dismissed because the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and could not involve itself in religious matters. Susan moved for summary judgment. The court denied Boaz’s motion to dismiss on the ground that the case did not constitute an impermissible entanglement of state and church. The court denied Susan’s summary-judgment motion on the ground that the case presented questions of fact. The matter was appealed. The appellate court granted Boaz’s motion to dismiss on the ground that the religious document was judicially unenforceable because the civil court had already granted the divorce decree and therefore the state had no further interest in the case. Susan appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wachtler, J.)

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