Sisterhood Blog

Getting a Get

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Rabbi Shlomo Weissman, director of the Beth Din of America

On a recent Sunday evening in Jerusalem, 25 married couples gathered to have both partners in each pair sign a “mutual respect contract.” The contract was created by three Orthodox rabbis at the behest of Mavoi Satum, a Jerusalem-based organization devoted to combating abuse of the Jewish divorce process.

If the couple decides to divorce, the mutual respect contract is brought to family court, which adjudicates the couple’s secular divorce and shares it with the rabbinical court overseeing the religious divorce, also known as a get. The contract stipulates that if either member of the couple delays the divorce process by more than six months — if the woman refuses to accept a get or the man refuses to grant it — then the recalcitrant spouse must pay the other $1,500 a month or half his or her salary, whichever is greater.

It sounds similar to the pre-nuptial contract (which can also be signed after a couple is already married) created and promoted by the Orthodox group the Rabbinical Council of America. That contract, which can be seen here, requires that if a couple separates, the husband pay his estranged wife $150 a day until a Jewish divorce is granted. If his wife refuses to appear before the Beth Din of America, then his obligation ends.

The contract has been considered controversial by some rabbis, who believe that any financial inducement for a man to give his estranged wife a get is tantamount to coercion, and therefore invalidates the Jewish divorce.

But Rabbi Shlomo Weissman, director of the Beth Din of America, the rabbinical court connected with the RCA, which adjudicates divorces, put it another way: “It provides an incentive for the get to be given earlier rather than later,” he told The Sisterhood. “It creates an obligation on the part of the husband to support his wife so long as they are married under Jewish law but not living together.”

While controversy about the halachic prenup ran high when it was first introduced in the 1990s, that seems to be waning, according to Weissmann. A survey of RCA members in December 2009 found that 70 percent of the rabbis who responded said they were willing to use the prenup, Weissmann said.

And, while not all RCA rabbis require that a prenup be signed before officiating at a wedding, it is being increasingly used, he said.

“I get the sense that slowly, more and more people are signing the prenup either because rabbis are becoming familiar with it or because brides and grooms have heard about it, are sensitive to the agunah problem and are signing it,” he said, referring to the situation when women are anchored to dead marriages by husbands unwilling to give them a get.

“There is a cultural reticence to introducing new practices in Jewish weddings. That more than anything else is why people have been slow to adopt it,” Weissmann said.

According to a study last year, there were a few hundred women in the U.S. whose husbands were refusing to grant them a divorce. It has become so common as to be unremarkable for men to grant their wives a get only if the women agree to make certain concessions, financial or in terms of custody arrangements, as part of the secular divorce.

The RCA prenup discourages that, Weissmann said.

While he said he couldn’t comment on the Mavoi Satum contract, he said that signing the RCA prenup before being married in the U.S. helps the Jewish divorce process run smoothly, if a couple’s marriage fails down the road. “The get isn’t used as a bargaining chip.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish, get, divorce, beth din, agunot, orthodox

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.