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Getting a Jewish Divorce ('Get')

Getting a Jewish Divorce (‘Get’)

(Updated as of May, 2018)

What is a “Get?”

get is a no-fault document which terminates a Jewish marriage and certifies 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 hand-written by an experienced scribe under the supervision of a Rabbi and signed by two authorized witnesses.

Why isn’t my civil divorce sufficient?

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. Most 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 aget.

Who is required to obtain a "get"?  Whose responsibility is it?

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.

Why should I bother obtaining a "get" if I’m not religious?

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.

How will I benefit from a Jewish divorce?

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.

Are there any religious rituals involved in the "get" process?

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 (sofer) to draw up the divorce document (get), written in Aramaic, 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.

 

If I agree to a "get", do I have to confront my ex-spouse again?

Not if you don’t 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 effected 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.

How much time and expense involved in obtaining a "get"?

The meeting with the Bet Din takes an hour or less. If you choose to use a proxy, it takes only the time to fill out an application and Appointment of Agency form and fax them.

The cost of the get is $730. It is recommended that this be shared by the husband and the wife.

How do I start the process?

The process for obtaining a get is relatively straight forward. Rabbi Daniel Shevitz, the Mesadder Gittin for the Rabbinical Assembly on the West Coast, maintains a website with all the forms and information:  www.jewishdivorce.info. His email is get@aju.edu, and he can be reached by phone at (310) 584-7266. You can begin the process by completing the online application. There is no need to print it; when you click the SUBMIT button is sent automatically.

Rabbi Taff and Rabbi Shevitz are happy to discuss the particulars of your GET, including how, when, and where it will be delivered.

What proof do I get?

The get is not retained by either party. It stays in the records or files of the rabbi who arranged the get. Both parties receive a certificate of proof (p’tur) 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.

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 theget to wait until the final divorce decree is issued.

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.

Additional Information

For any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Rabbi Shevitz directly using the contact information listed above, or Rabbi Taff.

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