The Get is a necessary part of the Jewish divorce process, and without getting The Get, a spouse remains religiously married, even if they have legally obtained a civil divorce. Do you need to get (or receive) a Get in your Divorce? Here are some commonly asked questions about the Jewish divorce process and some tips to make the necessary requirements an integrated part of your overall divorce process and strategy.
What is a Jewish Get?
A Get is required by Jewish couples who are married under (Halakha) Jewish law and wish to conclude or end the marriage. “Get” is a Hebrew term for the divorce document. The Get is similar in appearance to a Torah scroll and contains the language, through the religious process, of formally dissolving the marriage. It is prepared by a qualified scribe under the supervision of a rabbi, and states that the husband is unconditionally and freely releasing his wife from the marriage bond.
What are the Steps to obtain a Get or a Jewish divorce?
In order to obtain a Get, both spouses have to appear before the Jewish tribunal (Beth Din) which includes rabbis and other witnesses. The process requires willing participation by both parties. Under Jewish law, the husband is the one who must initiate giving of the Get. The wife is then able to receive and accept the Get.
What Happens if I don’t obtain a Get?
In the Jewish culture and faith tradition, the Get holds consequences for both, remarriage and future children within the Jewish faith. If a couple does not obtain their Get, they will face difficulties within Conservative, Orthodox or Hasidic Judaism traditions, in remarrying. Without obtaining a Get, it is considered adultery and any children born of future relationships, (even if legal under our society’s standards), are considered as illegitimate (mamzer) in the Jewish faith. Again, under Jewish faith traditions, children born in illegitimate relationships are unable to marry within the Jewish faith as adults.
What happens if the Husband will not give the Get?
The rabbinical or religious court may issue a “Seiruv” against a husband who has been summoned to provide his wife with a Get, but refuses to do so. The Seiruv holds the husband in contempt, again of the religious court, and has the ability to provide for sanctions against a husband failing or refusing to cooperate. The sanctions could include such things as the husband being banned from entering a synagogue or participating in Jewish religious faith customs, including the ability to participate in the burial traditions of deceased relatives. He may also be prevented from conducting business in the community and subject to religious sanctions from his lack of cooperation. This contempt or sanction generally remains in place until the Husband gives the Get. Some civil courts have determined that a Husband’s failure to give the Get is an act of domestic violence or domestic abuse so you should certainly discuss this failure (to give or receive the Get) with your divorce counsel.
Do You Need to Obtain a Get before proceeding with a civil divorce?
No. A spouse wishing to divorce can begin pursuing their civil divorce in family court when they are ready. The civil family court has no role in the couple’s religious divorce process (other than as referenced above, an unreasonable failure or refusal to cooperate can be considered a form of abuse).
What are our Top 3 Tips for Pursuing a Jewish Divorce?
- Obtain a Get as early as possible in the divorce process. While the civil and religious aspects of the divorce are almost entirely separate, pursuing and obtaining a Get early in the legal divorce process, helps minimize risks for complication. Some spouses may attempt to use the Get as a mechanism to gain leverage in custody or financial matters (such as trying to use the threat of refusing to cooperate in obtaining the Get for favorable negotiations/terms or obtaining other concessions). This type of approach can prolong the divorce process and make it more complicated for both parties.
- Consult with a knowledgeable rabbi. Reaching out to a rabbi or other Jewish expert familiar with the Get process will allow you to understand what needs to occur, what steps are involved and how to complete those steps as quickly/efficiently as possible. It is not necessary for you to contact the rabbi who married you or even the synagogue where you attend to obtain your Get. If you feel more comfortable reaching out to a new rabbi or a rabbi specializing in the Get process, this is permissible.
- Hire a family law attorney familiar with Jewish divorce. Having an attorney who is well-versed in the intricacies of Jewish divorce law and the Get process brings context and understanding to your situation. If you are experiencing stress and dispute over obtaining the Get, this is very likely to spill over into the civil process. You need a family law attorney who is able to incorporate and negotiate the two separate issues, when needed to reduce conflict and help you move on in your life.
In summary, going through a divorce is a stressful time both, emotionally and spiritually. You need to be able to lean on friends, family, your faith community, professional therapists and have a trusted and integrated legal professional to give you guidance. If you have questions about this process, call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation.