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New Jersey Lacks Jurisdiction in International Divorce Case

July 25, 2014 | Posted In Family Law

A New Jersey man has no grounds to pursue a lawsuit against the Israeli law firm that helped his estranged wife file for divorce, family lawyers in New Jersey report. According to a ruling from New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Victor Ashrafi, Jerome ST. John, and George Leone, New Jersey has no personal jurisdiction over the law firm in question, nor any of the lawyers employed there, because they have no connection to New Jersey. 

In a dispute that began in 2010, Sharon Ben-Haim, of Fair Lawn, and his wife Oshrat have been estranged since a visit to Israel during Passover that year. While in Israel, Oshrat filed for divorce within the Israeli civil court system and in Rabbinical court as well. Ben-Haim returned home to New Jersey, where he filed complaints against his wife, hoping to keep her from pursuing the divorce in Israel. In response, a state Superior Court Judge ordered that Oshrat and the couple’s now 4-year-old daughter Ofir return to New Jersey, and that no further Israeli court proceedings or filing should be made on Oshrat’s behalf. Despite this ruling, the Israeli Rabbinical Court ordered Ben-Haim to return to Israel and participate in their trial. 

Following this, Ben-Haim filed a lawsuit against Itkin Law Firm and specifically named two of its attorneys, Tal Itkin and Miki Mor, who are representing his wife. He claimed that, when he did return to Israel pursuant to the Rabbinical court’s order, he was detained for 4 months, during which time he was also dealing with legal battles over child support and custody. Since then, he has gained custody of Ofir by filing a complaint under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but he has not yet been able to bring her back to the US, because his wife has filed continued appeals. 

Ben-Haim also claimed that New Jersey should have specific jurisdiction to exercise over the Itkin attorneys, because they and the Rabbinical court in Israel communicated with the Fair Lawn religious authorities to set sanctions on him in his own home community, including having Ben-Haim labeled as a criminal under Israeli laws. However, the Superior Court and the appellate courts dismissed this suit, finding that the connection was not supportive of jurisdiction. Among his other allegations are claims of emotional distress, because the attorneys worked to keep him from seeing his daughter before he gained custody, and defamation claims in both civil and religious courts in Israel. 

In their decision, the appellate judges agreed that to pursue personal jurisdiction claims, and order the Israeli attorneys to come to New Jersey to defend themselves would “offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” 

At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey law firm, our family lawyers offer legal counsel and representation to spouses who are going through a divorce within the state’s courtrooms or internationally. If you need to discuss the specifics of your divorce case, contact an HCK attorney for a consultation today. 

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