The Get is an essential part of the Jewish divorce process, and without it, spouses remain religiously married even if they have obtained a civil divorce. Do you need to get (or give) a Get in your divorce? Here are answers to commonly asked questions about Jewish divorce with tips for how to make the Get a seamless part of your overall divorce strategy.
What is a Jewish Get?
A Get is required by Jewish couples who were married under Jewish law (Halakha) and wish to end their marriage. “Get” is simply the Hebrew word for “divorce document.” The Get is similar in appearance to a Torah scroll and contains language formally dissolving the marriage. It is prepared by a qualified scribe under the supervision of a rabbi, which states that the husband willingly and unconditionally releases his wife from the marriage bond.
What are the steps for Jewish divorce?
To obtain a Get, both spouses must appear before a Jewish tribunal (Beth Din), consisting of rabbis and witnesses. The process requires willing participation from both parties. Under Jewish law, the husband must initiate the giving of the Get. The wife then receives and accepts the Get.
What are the consequences for not obtaining a Get?
The Get holds implications for remarriage and future children within the Jewish faith. If a couple does not obtain a Get, they will face difficulties remarrying within Conservative, Orthodox, or Hasidic Judaism. Future relationships would be considered adultery and any children born from a subsequent relationship would be considered illegitimate (mamzer) in the Jewish faith. These children would be unable to marry within the Jewish faith as adults.
What if the husband won’t give the Get?
The rabbinical court may issue a “Seiruv” against a husband who has been summoned to give a Get, but refuses. The Seiruv holds the husband in contempt of the rabbinical court and comes with the potential for sanctions. For example, the husband may be banned from entering a synagogue or participating in Jewish religious customs, including the burial of deceased relatives. He may also be banned from conducting business in the community and be subject to other sanctions. This contempt charges remain in place until the husband gives the get. [Read more: Ex-Husband’s Refusal Give Jewish Divorce ‘Get’ Called Act of Domestic Abuse]
Do you need a Get before proceeding with a civil divorce?
No. Spouses wishing to divorce can begin to pursue their civil divorce in the family courts whenever they feel ready. The civil family courts have no role in the couple’s religious divorce.
3 Tips for Jewish Divorce
“Get” an Early Start. While civil and religious divorce are completely separate, pursuing a Get as early in the divorce process as possible helps to keep risk for complications to a minimum. Some spouses may attempt use the Get as a means to gain leverage in custody or financial matters (i.e, only agreeing to give or receive a get when certain civil concessions are made). This can prolong the divorce process, making it more challenging for both parties.
Consult with a knowledgeable rabbi. Reach out to a rabbi or a Jewish legal expert familiar with the Get process to guide you through the steps and answer any questions you may have. It is not required for you to contact the rabbi who married you or the rabbi of the synagogue you attend. If you helps you feel more comfortable, reach out to a new rabbi or a rabbi known specifically for their expertise in Gets.
Hire a family law attorney familiar with Jewish divorce. Having a family law attorney well-versed in Jewish divorce law and the Get process brings greater context and understanding to your situation. If there is stress and disagreement over the Get, for example, this may result in conflict spilling over into your civil divorce — and vice versa. The family law attorney will know how to negotiate beneficial terms that minimize conflict, helping you and your spouse overcome any civil or religious hurdles to moving on with your lives.
Seek emotional and spiritual support. Divorce can be an emotionally challenging experience. Lean on friends, family, community members, or professional therapists for comfort and guidance during this difficult time. The Sister to Sister Network is an online support group just for divorcing Jewish women.
Have questions about your divorce? We can help. Schedule a consultation with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys by calling us at 888-888-0919. Get answers to your questions and start protecting yourself today.