US Court: Catholic Woman Must Live as Orthodox Jew for Son


jewish-intermarraigeIt has been centuries since the divide between church and state has been in place, but recently some are saying that religion has been taking center stage in divorce courts across the United States. This time, the state has ruled that ultra-Orthodox Judaism must be followed by a pair of Catholics.

Laura Derbigney, a Hispanic Catholic woman, has been placed under court order to keep Shabbos, keep kosher and live as a frum Jew. This court order was carried out in Chicago and the woman is now being told she must live an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle due to her new husband’s ex-wife who is a chassidic Jew.

Derbigney’s husband Nelson, also a Catholic, has a son by his first wife, a seven-year old who follows halachic restrictions with his Catholic father as he has with his biological mother, and this is the reasoning behind the court’s order to have the boy’s father and new step-mother live in the ways of a frum Jew.

“I truly feel it’s an intrusion on my home life,” Derbigney said from her attorney’s office Monday, according to NBC reports. “That I have to now obey certain aspects of being kosher and following Shabbos in order for my husband and I to see his son, is wrong.”

These restrictions include dietary restrictions. Despite Derbigney reportedly liking to cook Hispanic foods from her childhood, she will not be able to feed the child pork. Furthermore, the court has ordered that she is not allowed to shop at her regular supermarket and must shop from a kosher supermarket, henceforth – a supermarket, according to her interview with NBC, that is located in a different neighborhood far from her home.  

Along with this, she will definitely not be able to take the boy from her new husband’s first marriage in a car on Shabbos, and for the same reason no sports will be played and no electronics will be used.

The court order was enacted under the demands of the ex-wife who complained to court that the last time her son visited his father he was fed non-kosher hot dogs.

Attorney Joel Brodsky, who is defending the Derbigneys and has won a similar case where religion proved to be the main concern in a custody battle, told NBC that the court’s ruling ignores the First Amendment which describes a citizen’s right to live by their own religious beliefs. Brodsky said, “Just because you’re divorced, the court can’t say how to live your lives or what grocery store you can go to.”

Brodsky’s similar case that he won in mid February of this year coincidentally involves a Jewish ex-wife and a Hispanic Catholic father. The father, by the name of Joseph Reyes, converted to Judaism when he married his ex-wife Rebecca Reyes and returned to Catholicism when they divorced. Later, he brought their daughter Ela to a church and was afterwards sued, facing prison and fines for the church visit due to allegations that the pair decided to raise the daughter Jewish; though the father denies this.

This particular case was judged by Judge Edward Jordan, member of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (Jewish bar association) but with the request of Brodsky, the judge was changed to Cook County Judge Goldfarb who ruled in favour of the father’s right to send their daughter to church during his visitations if he so chooses.

{Ynet/Yair Newscenter]


  1. It seemss quite sad that both Joel Brodsky and Judge Goldfarb- both obviously Jewish are fighting against their own religeon.

  2. The woman and her husband are not being forced to live an Orthodox lifestyle. They are being asked to accommodate the child when he comes to visit. That is not unreasonable. My grandparents manage to do all of the above every time we come to visit.

  3. This type of puplicity, as interesting as it may be, is not often a good thing for frum jews. Unfortunately to someone who doesn’t understand halocha this is seemingly fanatical and very unwarranted !! Maybe the “frum” side of this argument should take a less strict approach (without compromising on key halachic issues) in order to preserve a nonconfrontitive image.

  4. The representation of teh case here is wrong. The father pro,ised repeat promosed that the children will be raised Jewish. He did so in court. She had custody. Matzav is wrong to represent the view of the other side here without challenging it. YNET took this piece from a biased reporter. Please remove it.

  5. Well, now that we’ve broken the ‘seperation between church and state’ (which is a ‘Federalist Papers’ idea – not a Constitutional one, anyway) can we get school vouchers to pay ourselves, less of our own money, for a better product?

  6. Notice the bias of the reporter?

    The Catholic father is repeated referred to as the “father,” and the Jewish mother is referred to as the “ex-wife” (with all its negative connotations).