Jewish Divorce

I was at a family law seminar last week where one the speakers was a well known rabbi in northern New Jersey.  The rabbi touched on many subjects, one of which was the “Get”, aka, the Jewish divorce.  In the Jewish religion, a woman may not remarry until she has a Get from her husband, and a divorce in the Family Court does not equate to a divorce in the Jewish religion.  In such an event, she is known as an “Agunah” (anchored).  In fact, the couple are still considered married until the Get is issued.  As a result, should the woman remarry, in the eyes of Judaism it is considered an act of adultery, and any children born therefrom are deemed “mamzerim”  (illegitimate).

We have blogged on this subject before, and links to those articles can be found here and here.  To me, this is always a fascinating subject, and the stirring/confusion that seemed to arise in the seminar room upon its discussion demonstrates that it continues to be of interest from both a practical and intellectual standpoint for many who have encountered the issue in their personal lives or practice.

With that, it was almost coincidental that the Appellate Division just released a new unreported (not precedential) decision in Lowy v. Lowy, where the appellate court found that the trial court exceeded its authority by compelling the husband to give the Get, so to speak.  The parties were divorced in 2004 when the family court issued a dual final judgment of divorce.  Incorporated in that judgment was the decision of the Bais Din – Jewish rabbinical court – which addressed a variety of issues including, but not limited to, custody, child support and asset distribution.  Notably, the rabbinical court’s decision did not require the husband to provide the wife with a Get, simply stating that if the parties arranged for one, that the wife would pay for the “Get fees” incurred.Continue Reading TRIAL COURT EXCEEDS AUTHORITY IN COMPELLING HUSBAND TO GIVE A "GET"

Abdelhak v. The Jewish Press, Inc., et. al., a recently reported (precedential) decision from the Appellate Division, raises the always interesting issue of Jewish divorce.  While the divorce itself was not the main issue in the case, which I briefly discuss below, the case provides a relevant opportunity to discuss Jewish divorces in general and how they have been treated by New Jersey courts. 

Under Jewish law, a "Get" is a bill of divorce that a husband gives to a wife in order to "free her" to remarry.  A secular divorce will not do the trick, as the couple’s marital status will remain unchanged under Jewish tenets.  In such cases, the wife is labeled unceremoniously as an "agunah," or a "chained woman" so to speak.  What does that mean to the woman who wants to remarry?  The result is dramatic and far reaching, as she cannot remarry (and, simply put, most Conservative and Orthodox rabbis would not even perform a wedding for such a woman); and any children subsequently had with another man are considered children born of adultery.  A trickling down effect essentially occurs, where the children, grandchildren, etc., often can only marry other children born in such a situation or persons who converted to Judaism.  Unfortunately, this may place the woman in the position of obtaining an inequitable secular divorce settlement to procure the desired Get from the husband. Continue Reading GETTING A "GET" – JEWISH DIVORCE IS NO SIMPLE MATTER