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.