Where Divorce Can Be Denied in Orthodox Judaism, Prenuptial Agreements May be Considered

Making the news is the issue of how to get a divorce in the Orthodox Jewish religion when it is denied by your husband. This type of religious divorce is known as a "get" or a letter dictated by the husband and written by a trained scribe giving the wife permission to end the marriage. Less religious Jews divorce with no thought to the get, but this is not the case in traditional Judaism where the husband may withhold the divorce. If the divorce is withheld, the woman is called an agunah, or "chained wife." There were 462 cases of agunot in North America between 2005 and 2010.

Even if an agunah obtains a civil divorce, she still cannot remarry within the faith. If she does, children from her new marriage are stigmatized forever. In exchange for a get, husbands usually demand reduced alimony, favorable child-custody arrangements, and even cash payouts.

Today, in Israel, some reluctant husbands are jailed until they issue gets. But this is not the case in the United States where secular courts cannot interfere in a religious divorce and where violence usually ends up in an arrest as was in the case of a Lakewood N.J. couple apprehended last July for arranging the kidnapping and beating of a man who refused to give a get. So now rabbis are looking to promote a more civilized approach-the religious prenuptial agreement. There are many versions of this agreement but one widely used and based in New York is called the Beth Din of America.

Couples who sign the Beth Din of America halachic prenuptial agreement -"Halachic" means Jewish law-agree to have religious aspects of their divorce decided by a Jewish court. And what's more important, the husband agrees to pay his wife $150 per day if they separate. This simply means he will support his wife until he gives her the get.

In 2011, Ms. Siegel, a Chicago filmmaker, made the documentary "Women Unchained" about Jewish women whose husbands refuse to give a religious divorce or get. Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, who is featured in "Women Unchained," spoke at a panel discussion at Spertus, a Jewish educational center in Chicago, and mentioned that one possible hope for chained wives is-an annulment.

Rabbi Schwartz says that if a marriage began under false pretenses, it can be considered to never have taken place. Such a case might involve a spouse's failure to disclose an abusive streak or other unlikely tendencies such as a gambling addiction or homosexuality.

If you are contemplating a divorce, you may want to contact the Stange Law Firm, PC. We are a firm that focuses exclusively on family law in the areas of divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, prenuptial agreements, and annulments among many other domestic relations issues.

Kirk Stange is a Managing Partner of the firm who has a book set to release soon titled: Prenuptial Agreements, Line by Line, through Aspatore Publishing.  To schedule a confidential half-hour consultation with one of our attorneys, call 855-805-0595 or visit us online.

Source: Where Divorce Can Be Denied, Orthodox Jews Look to Prenuptial Contracts, By Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times