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Divorce in Judaism: A Jewish Court plays its part

In the Jewish faith tradition, there are courts that are specific to Judaism which play an important part in the life of married persons who are seeking a divorce. Known as a Beit Din (rabbinical court), these courts supervised the process of applying for a Get.

A get is a document created by a rabbi familiar with Jewish Law on divorce that will allow a man and woman to get a divorce in their faith. For Jewish people, simply going to the civil courthouse and getting a divorce like any other citizen of the State of Texas is insufficient. Obtaining a get is essential to their being able to move forward in living their lives as Jewish people.

If you are Jewish then you probably know already that without a get you and your spouse will remain married in the eyes of your faith even if you have successfully been divorced by the State of Texas. It is the responsibility of the husband to obtain the get and to present it to his wife. As a wife, if you are not presented with a get and subsequently have a child with another man that child cannot marry within the Jewish faith.

The supervision of obtaining a valid get is done by a beit din. This is a court that is run by rabbis for Jewish people. Complex cases and the obtaining of gets are the primary jobs of this court. If you are in a marriage that needs dispute resolution a beit din can be of assistance as well. Jewish law states that when two spouses have a dispute that they must submit their dispute to the beit din rather than the civil courts. If you are not able to settle your issues outside of court you are to proceed to a beit din before entering into a civil trial in regard to your divorce.

For what it’s worth- Jewish law strongly encourages divorcing spouses to attend at least one session of mediation prior to petitioning for a trial. The Beth Din of America employs a mediator who can serve as a go-between and facilitator of discussion for parties interested in moving forward with the process. This is a commonality between the Jewish courts and civil courts. Any opportunity to avoid lengthy and costly legal battles should always be taken advantage of.

When a marriage has run its course and reconciliation and settlement is not possible, the spouses will apply through the beit din for a get. Taking the beit din as a whole, this body serves as a supervisor during the obtaining of a get, as a decider of financial and custodial issues related to the divorce and 3) helping men and women to be able to remarry once their divorce has been finalized.

Prenuptial agreements as a part of marrying within the Jewish faith

A court that oversees individual beit dins is the Beth Din of America. This body encourages the use of prenuptial agreements that state in part that any disputes in the marriage must be submitted to the Beth Din of America. Also, even after the divorce has been filed the husband still has a responsibility to the wife to pay towards her support and maintenance as long as the marriage is still legal.

These two goals are outlined in any prenuptial agreement obtained through a beit din. Prenuptial agreements are seen as a mechanism to help ensure the health and success of marriages in the Jewish community.

Reasons why Jewish people use civil divorce over rabbinical divorce methods

The vast majority of Jewish people bypass beit din divorces in favor of civil divorces. Let’s examine the reasons why that is.

Doubt regarding whether or not a beit din divorce will be enforceable by law. There is precedent around the country that the decisions of beit dins have been honored by civil courts especially when both sides have been represented by counsel during the prenuptial agreement phase as well as in the divorce.

Concern over whether or not a beit din can handle the complexities of many divorce cases. If your divorce involves a large amount of community property, complicated issues regarding your child or messy emotional and personal issues with your spouse the thought may have entered your mind that a beit din is not appropriate in your case. There are multiple beit dins available in the country and your prenuptial agreement should state the particular beit dein that you and your spouse want your divorce to be heard should that step be necessary.

Concerns over sexism in beit dins

If you are a Jewish woman you may have been exposed to others in your community stating that beit dins are more favorable to men. Keep in mind that Jewish law prohibits favoritism of this sort in applying the laws of the Jewish faith tradition. If your husband appears at the beit din but you do not for fear of the proceedings being unfair or biased, you run the risk of having a contempt order issued against you with carries with it penalties

In the event that you are a husband whose wife has been steadfast in her refusal to appear before a beit din, you still have a responsibility to obtain a get and present it to your wife when it is clear that your marriage is irredeemable.

No matter if you have withheld a get from your wife or your wife refuses to accept the get when your divorce is unavoidable, there is no excuse for not preparing one if your divorce is around the corner.

Using the beit din to your personal advantage against the teachings of Judaism

A few rotten apples spoil the whole bunch and the same can be said of divorcing Jews. A beit din exists to benefit the Jewish community in its area.

For instance, it is not uncommon for men who receive a “poor” outcome in civil court to request a get through their local beit din in order to have the civil decision relitigated in a Jewish court. The system is set up as it is to benefit people and strengthen communities.

When is a Jewish person permitted to go to a secular court for a divorce?

As a Jewish person, you must get permission from your beit din in order to attend a secular court in regard to your divorce.

If your spouse has refused to participate in the beit din proceedings or is one where the beit din is incapable of handling that type of case are two situations where you may be justified in requesting permission to attend civil court instead of a qualified beit din to have your divorce adjudicated.

What if you are a wife whose husband will not request a get? Do you have options?

If you are a woman in a marriage and your husband has displayed no willingness to obtain a get to present you with you may be concerned with your ability to marry within the Jewish community in the future based on these circumstances.

A get may be obtained regardless of your spouse’s unwillingness to obtain one when you and your husband no longer desire to live together as husband and wife and a beit din has stated that reconciliation is unlikely.

Questions on how a civil divorce in Texas can impact your divorce through a beit din? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of southeast Texas and understand the faith-based traditions in our community. As such we always make an effort to present varying viewpoints on the subject of divorce and family law in general. We hope that you enjoyed reading about the subject of divorces within the Jewish faith over the past few days.

If you have questions about this subject or any other in family law please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with a licensed family law attorney.

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