Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Q. What is a “Get”?
A. A Get is a no-fault document that terminates a Jewish marriage and certifies that the fact that a couple is now free to remarry according to Jewish law. The document has no bearing or effect on any aspect of the civil settlement and makes no reference to responsibility or fault. The Get itself is a bill of divorce consisting of twelve lines, which is handwritten by an expert scribe under the supervision of a Rabbi and signed by two authorized witnesses.
Q. Why isn’t a civil divorce sufficient?
A. Although a civil divorce is certainly necessary to end the civil marriage, according to Jewish law (Halacha), a Jewish marriage is not dissolved until a Jewish bill of divorce (Get) is exchanged between husband and wife. Many American rabbis, and the Israeli rabbinate, do not recognize a civil divorce as sufficient and will therefore not officiate at a wedding in which either party has been divorced without a Get.
Q. Who is required to obtain a Get? Whose responsibility is it?
A. A marriage in which both parties are Jewish requires a Get. It is the responsibility of both the husband and wife to make the arrangements. Either party may initiate the process; however, the husband must execute the Get freely and voluntarily.
Q. Why should I bother obtaining a Get if I am not religious?
A. Regardless of one’s personal convictions or beliefs, obtaining a Get is important to ensure free social interaction within the Jewish community. This affects both the divorcing parties themselves as well as future children. Many rabbis will not officiate at a remarriage for a man or woman whose previous marriage ended without a Get. In addition, according to traditional Jewish law, a child born to a woman whose previous marriage did not terminate with a Get may be considered illegitimate. Such a child may be barred from marrying into many segments of the Jewish community, possibly depriving them of the opportunity to marry the individual of their choice.
Q. How will I benefit from a Jewish divorce?
A. A Jewish couple who has obtained a Get will not be limited as to whom they may marry in the future. In addition, it ensures the couple that their future children will not be prevented from marrying within the larger Jewish community. In essence, the Get removes any obstacles that may prevent free social interaction across the entire Jewish community for both the divorcing couple and any future children.
Q. Are there any religious rituals involved in the Get process?
A. No. There are no prayers, blessings or rituals involved, though Jewish divorce proceedings have not changed over several thousand years, their nature is similar to most present-day legal transactions. Under the direction of a rabbi, the husband authorizes the scribe to draw up the divorce document (Get) in the presence of two witnesses who then sign the document. The husband presents it to the wife who accepts it in the presence of the witnesses at which point the divorce takes effect.
Q. If I agree to a Get, do I have to confront my ex-spouse again?
A. Not if you do not want to. In situations where direct contact between husband and wife would present difficulty, either due to geographic distance or other constraints, the process can be affected by the use of a proxy or power of attorney. The procedure is essentially the same as for any other Get, just divided over two sessions. The Get is written in the usual manner, with only the husband being present. The husband then appoints one of the rabbis present as his agent or proxy to deliver the Get to the wife. Once the wife has accepted the Get, the divorce is effective and final. Thus, a Get can be arranged without any direct contact between husband and wife.
Q. How much time and expense is involved in obtaining a Get?
A. The entire divorce proceeding takes about two hours. No personal questioning is involved. One should consult the Beis Din (Jewish Court/Rabbinical Court) of their choosing to inquire as to the fees of the Beis Din. Sometimes the parties may choose a proxy arrangement, requiring the rabbi and witnesses to schedule a separate session for the delivery of the Get, there may be an additional cost. Subsidies are available when necessary.
Q. Where do I have to go for the Get?
A. The location of the Get process is relatively flexible. It generally takes place in a rabbi’s office, or the chambers of the Beis Din; however, it can be done in any location convenient to the divorcing parties, the rabbi, the witnesses and the scribe.
Q. What proof do I receive that I went through the Get process?
A. The Get is not retained by either party. It stays in the records or files of the supervising rabbi. Both parties receive a certificate of proof (“p’tur”, e.g. release) attesting to the fact that the Get has been written, given and accepted and that both parties are free to remarry. This certificate is usually sent in the mail within a few weeks after the Get has been done. Of course, the divorce is effective as soon as the wife receives the Get. However, the woman should consult a Rabbi prior to remarrying as according to Jewish law; a woman must wait 91 days prior to remarrying.
Q. When is the best time to have the Get done?
A. The Get can be done at any point once the husband and wife have physically separated. Both parties are usually not ready to cooperate, however, until the basic issues, i.e., property, support, custody and visitation have been agreed upon. Once a settlement has been signed, there is certainly no need for the Get to wait until the final divorce decree is issued. However, many Battei Din will not give the couple the p’tur until they have received a copy of a certified divorce decree. The Get can also be arranged at any subsequent time, even years later. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of Jewish law and as a practical matter, it should be done as soon as possible.
Q. Explore the instances in which an abused woman should seek rabbinical permission prior to taking any action in secular court (I.e., obtaining an order of protection [either in family or criminal court], changing locks on doors, leaving home, going to a shelter, etc.) that might weaken her position later in Beis Din.
A. In all circumstances, other than when there is serious physical injury, where a call to “911” is necessary, and/or there is fear of serious physical injury to the woman and her children a call and/or consultation should be made to a Rabbi who is knowledgeable and experienced in matters involving domestic abuse.
Q. What can a Beis Din do to ensure that a woman will be adequately represented in a Beis Din?
A. Pursuant to Article 75 of the CPLR, a party has an unwaivable and absolute right to have an attorney present at an arbitration proceeding. Before the party signs the “Shtar Berurin”, (an arbitration agreement entered into between the parties and the Beis Din that defines and limits the parameters of the dispute that the Beis Din will hear and decide), she should inform the Beis Din that she wishes an attorney to be present at all proceedings. If the Beis Din refuses, she should choose a different Beis Din. Furthermore, a victim’s advocate can be present.
Q. At what point can a woman initiate her case in secular court? Can she do so after her husband has rejected three Hazmanot and the Beis Din has issued a Seiruv against her husband?
A. The woman should consult with her Rabbi especially if her husband is in contempt of Beis Din.
A Seiruv is a document issued by a Beis Din after a party has ignored three summonses (Hazmanas), which publicly announces that the non-appearing party has defied and insulted the Beis Din. The document demands that the non-appearing party be ostracized and excommunicated from any social or commercial dealings. This publication is generally published in Jewish newspapers and posted in synagogues throughout the area frequented by the individual against whom the Seiruv is published.
Q. If an arbitration agreement was entered into by the parties in Beis Din, what is its validity in secular court? Can an attorney set aside a Beis Din determination?
A. It is axiomatic that every Beis Din proceeding must comply with both halachic and secular procedural rules. Once the parties agree to be bound by a Beis Din, its decision has the full force of law as if a secular court rendered the decision. In accordance with the New York law, the prevailing party can enforce the Beis Din decision by asking the secular court, within one year, to confirm the decision. Once confirmed, it is enforceable like any other secular court decision. Actually, in one respect, the Beis Din’s decision is even “stronger” than that of a secular court as there is generally no right of appeal from a Beis Din decision. It is final. The reason for this is that the Alternative Dispute Resolution (i.e., arbitration) is supposed to bring an end to litigation and allowing appeals defeats this purpose. The only way a party can effectively appeal a Beis Din decision, is if either party prevails upon the secular courts to recognize that one or more defects of Article 75 were violated. (See CPLR sect. 7511(2)(b); See Golding v. Golding, 176 AD2d 20 (1st Dept. 1992); (the Court overturned the Beis Din ruling due to the coercion placed upon the woman to accept the Get)). However, a Beis Din ruling regarding “child custody and visitation” can always be revisited as the courts will always inquire as to the “best interests of the child”.
Q. What is a woman’s recourse in the event of ineffective or unsatisfactory enforcement by a Beis Din of such agreements? Can a woman bring these isolated matters to secular court?
A. A woman should consult with an attorney or Rabbi as to the enforcement power of the agreement she made in Beis Din. A binding arbitration agreement made between the parties has great weight when considered by the secular courts and will generally not be reviewed unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances and only after a six-month period has elapsed. However, as an agreement regarding visitation, and custody, and child support address the “best interest of the child”, civil court can review the agreement and therefore an agreement made in Beis Din may have no lasting enforcement power. Moreover, usually not before a six-month period has elapsed. Secular courts will also consider whether or not a party was coerced into signing the agreement in deciding whether to uphold the Beis Din ruling. (See Schwartz v. Schwartz, 583 N.Y.S.2d 716 (Kings Co. 1992).
DISCLAIMER FOR WRITERS/BLOGGERS:
The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Kol-Isha.org. The articles have been reprinted without editorial input or comment.