Explaining Religious Divorce
If you are Jewish and going through a divorce, in addition to any steps you take to obtain a civil divorce, it is critically important to also arrange for a Jewish divorce, or Get. The information below is designed to help you understand the need for a Jewish divorce and outlines the procedure followed at the Jewish court (Beth Din) in issuing the Get.
Divorce Under Jewish Law
The family unit is of primary importance in Jewish tradition, and Judaism greatly values the institution of marriage. Nevertheless, the Torah recognizes that for a variety of reasons, marriages sometimes do not work out and need to be ended.
The Torah states that in such an event, “he shall write for her a bill of divorce and place it in her hand.” (Deuteronomy 24:1) That bill of divorce is referred to as a Get.
Why the Get Is Important
In order to end a Jewish marriage, Jewish law (halacha) requires that the husband give and the wife receives it. Unless one of them is deceased, under Jewish law both husband and wife require a Get in order to remarry. In addition, without the Get, the woman’s offspring from any subsequent union may bear the stigma of illegitimacy (mamzerut). This stigma remains in place for future generations.
Jewish Divorce at the cRc
The Beth Din is careful to treat every person with sensitivity and compassion and tries to make the Get proceeding as smooth and as comfortable as possible for the parties. We provide a dignified and private environment for the administration of the Get and scrupulously preserve the privacy of the parties.
The standard Get process is conducted in English, Hebrew or, if necessary, in the spoken language of the parties. The entire process takes approximately one and one half hours. If English or Hebrew is not the spoken language of both parties, please tell the Beth Din in advance, so that we can make special arrangements to ensure that the rabbis at the Get procedure speak with the parties in their language.
In addition, if the parties need any other special accommodations, please contact the Beth Din. The Beth Din will attempt to accommodate any such needs.
The Get Process
When a husband and wife arrive at the Beth Din, they are seated in a conference room and are introduced to the officiating rabbi, the scribe, and two witnesses who will sign the Get and witness the proceedings. The parties are asked to present some form of formal identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, in order to identify themselves to the rabbis.
The officiating rabbi asks the parties some questions regarding which names they commonly use (since the Get must accurately identify the parties). After that, the husband is asked some standard questions to ascertain that he is willingly participating in the Get process, and the husband then verbally authorizes the scribe to write the Get and the witnesses to sign it and witness its delivery. The husband is furnished with a prepared script in English for this purpose.
The Get is then written by the scribe using a feather quill. Essentially, it is a letter from the husband to the wife that states that she is free to remarry anyone she wishes. The two authorized witnesses read the Get and then sign their names to it.
The wife is asked some standard questions to confirm that she is willingly accepting the Get. These questions, too, are furnished with a prepared script in English. The Get is then folded by the scribe, and the husband holds the Get over his wife’s hands, declares that he is giving it to her for the purpose of divorce, and then places the Get in his wife’s hands in the presence of the witnesses. Once the wife has received the Get, the couple is considered divorced under Jewish law.
The Get itself is cut in two by the supervising rabbi and is retained in the Beth Din files. After the civil divorce is finalized, the Beth Din issues a certificate (ptur) to each party, indicating that a Get has been given and that each party is free to remarry.
A standard Get costs approximately $375. Additional fees may apply for special services. The Beth Din will inform the parties of these costs prior to initiating such services. Fees may be subsidized or waived based on financial need, or other compelling circumstances. The cost of a Get should not be a factor in deciding whether to arrange a Get, and the cRc Beth Din will never decline to arrange a Get solely because of a party’s inability to pay.
Contested Get Cases
The cRc Beth Din specializes in the resolution of Get cases involving a recalcitrant spouse who refuses or is reluctant to give or receive a Get. When necessary to solve or avoid an Agunah situation, we will even travel to people’s offices and homes in order to make sure that a Get is provided with dignity and respect.