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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.