“On paper I’m free, but I’m still imprisoned.” – Gital Dodelson

Gital Dodelson is among the chained women, or Agunot, as they are referred to in Jewish law, who remain anchored to their marriages long after the civil divorce has been granted.  This is because Gital’s husband, Avrohom Meir Weiss, refuses to grant her a get – the document that must be signed by a husband for a divorce to be recognized by Jewish law.

Recently, Gital, only age 25, set off a firestorm when she opened up about her struggles to the New York Post.  As Gital explained, in Jewish divorce law, the power to divorce vests in the husband and the husband alone.  The wife waits for her husband to willingly give her a get so that she can be free.  The system works well when there are two willing participants to the divorce process. However, the inherent institutional inequality of bargaining power between husband and wife, combined with a controlling husband, can be recipe for disaster.

While there is almost no recourse in New Jersey to compel the get, one must wonder if cases such as these could constitute domestic violence and be prosecuted under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

 

PhyVio

In New Jersey, domestic violence involves abuse or harassment against a spouse, former spouse, any present or former member of the same household, someone in a dating relationship, or someone who has, or is about to have, a child in common.

Domestic violence laws have become powerful tools to redress abusive behavior.  This is perhaps a theory that should be explored by the Dodelson camp considering their claim that Weiss has refused to give his wife a get in order to control her.

More on this subject to come.

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Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

  • Moe Ginsburg

    No Federal or State law can be used to compel providing a “Get”. This is simply due to the Separation of church and state rules based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. A “Get” by its very nature is a religious document and rite. And no State entity can compel any American to engage in a religious rite, which is exactly what a “Get is, against his wishes.

    To further the point, what if the husband declares he became an atheist (or a Hindu or a Reform Jew) at some point during or after his marriage. And he now believes performing a Jewish “Get” ritual is against his beliefs. No government or court could force him to engage in the Orthodox Jewish “Get” ceremony and document issuance. And he doesn’t have to make such a claim. Even if he acknowledges he remains an Orthodox Jew but doesn’t want to undergo that religious function, no government or court can force him to undergo that religious function.

    If the husband simply leaves his marital home and moves to another city, leaving behind his wife without a “Get” but does not do anything else to her or even remain in contact with her, there is no plausible theory under any State law to find such a scenario to be “domestic violence” simply because he did not hand over to her a religious document.

    Heck, he no longer lives with her or even sees or speaks to her — there is no domesticity whatsoever.