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Getting a Jewish Divorce ('Get')

Getting a Jewish Divorce (‘Get’)

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 is involved in obtaining a "get"?

The entire divorce proceeding takes about a half hour. No personal questioning is involved. The cost of the get is approximately $500 when both parties are present together and the get can be drawn up and delivered in one session. When the parties 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 $100 cost.

How do I start the process?

The process for obtaining a get is relatively straight forward. The first Judaism on the West Coast. His contact information is:

Rabbi Daniel Shevitz
Mesadder Gittin
The Rabbinical Assembly

The best way to contact Rabbi Shevitz is via
15600 Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90077
(310) 440-1221 office
(310) 584-7266 direct
(310) 317-7895 FAX 

The GET application is a webform, filled out online and submitted directly to Rabbi Shevitz.  An Appointment of Agency form (available on his website) may also be required, which enables the GET to be written without the presence of the husband or wife.  A  sofer (scribe) will write the get as prescribed by Jewish law and Rabbi Shevitz will send it to Rabbi Taff. As soon as Rabbi Taff receives the documents, he will contact you to arrange for the ceremony of delivering the Get which takes place in the rabbi’s study, along with two witnesses.

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

When the wife or husband contacts Rabbi Shevitz, he will send theman application for a GET and a form for the appointment of agency. Once he receives the completed forms and a check, he will usually confirm it with a phone call and then he will write the GET. It can be delivered in several fashions:

  • By the husband to the wife at session of a Bet din (mine or another) – this is pretty rare;
  • By the husband’s agent (Rabbi Shevitz or another rabbi) to the wife in front of a Bet Din (mine or another);
  • By the husband’s agent tot he wife’s agent (usually Rabbi Shevitz). This is done when the wife can’t/won’t appear in person.
  • If the delivery is done remotely (that is, at a bet din other than Rabbi Shevitz’s in Los Angeles), he sends Rabbi Taff the GET, a delivery script, and instructions.
  • Also, you should know that The Rabbinical Assembly Bet Din can often move quickly but not every time, so it is best to give Rabbi Shevitz at least two months’ notice (three is better).
  • 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, unti 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.

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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