Updating a blog post we brought you last year, a Brooklyn judge is currently overseeing a divorce case involving an Orthodox Jewish husband who is refusing to grant his wife a “Get”.
Keep in mind, a “Get” is a Jewish bill of divorce, given by a husband to his wife. Unless a “Get” is “given”, under Jewish law, a couple is still married, unless a secular divorce is reached. As such, the interplay between secular and religious laws is loaded with potential problems for a people caught in such a situation. Remember, a “Bais Din” or a Jewish court grants the “Get”.
According to the New York Post, the Brooklyn case is unusual in nature because Judge Esther Morgenstern, who is overseeing it, filed for divorce from her then husband, Nathan Waidenbaum in 1987, and at the time, she too had to request a “Get”. Morgenstern has threatened a rabbi named Yoel Weiss, 34, who has refused to grant his wife Rivky Stein, 24, a “Get” by forcing him to pay alimony if he does not change his position soon, in an attempt to coerce him.
This is consistent with the Supreme Court decision in case of Gindi v. Gindi. In this case, Supreme Court Judge Gerald Garson ordered a husband to pay non-durational maintenance to his wife due to his refusal to give a “Get”, thus placing a barrier to her re-marriage and support from a new husband.
Keep in mind, New York recognizes ceremonial marriages. In Avitzur v. Avitzur, the Court of Appeals recognized a “Ketubah” (which is a husband’s undertaking (contract) to support his wife as dictated by rabbinic law) as a binding agreement. In Avitzur, the “Ketubah” in question had a provision inserted by the Conservative movements, Rabbinical Assembly, which required the husband to give a “Get” if directed to do so by a Beth Din. However, Avitzur is no longer good law in light of the case of Matisoff v Dobi. Keep in mind, Ketubot, like all pre medieval contracts, are not signed by the parties, and are not acknowledged by a notary.
In the Stein case mentioned above, her attorney told the Post that the “Get” makes it virtually impossible for her to remarry and receive financial support. Even though Morgenstern sought a “Get” previously in her own divorce, she does not have to recuse herself from the case, because she has no interests in the proceeding.
An Attorney Can Help You Proceed with a Contentious Religious Divorce
If you have concerns about the religious aspects of a divorce, you should speak to an attorney. It should be noted that our firm is well versed in practicing before Beth Din, rabbinic courts.
Unfortunately, sometimes a “Get” is used as a way for a man to obtain concessions from an ex. However, there may be ways for you to persuade a man who is refusing to grant you one, if you are experiencing issues.
Remember, DRL §253 in New York requires a person to remove any religious barriers prior to the issuance of a divorce judgment. Under this statute, a court can consider asset distribution and maintenance if a religious barrier remains in place. DRL §253 was designed specifically for cases like the one above, potentially coercing a “Get” from a husband who is uncooperative.
Some rabbis hold that implementing these provisions invalidates any “Get” that is “given”, as they believe that any authority other than a rabbinic court cannot coerce a “Get”. Other rabbis are more permissive though; therefore, a lawyer needs to know the lay of the Halachic land in these types of cases. Keep in mind, New Jersey does not have a “Get” law.
As this case shows, family law can be incredibly complex, especially if it involves religious aspects. If your spouse is refusing to cooperate in a divorce case due to religious reasons, our attorneys have been able to use economic measures in past cases, enticing people to be more accommodating.
Keep in mind, our attorneys have Talmudic training and specific skills for appearances before a Bais Din. If you need a “Get”, the lawyers at our firm know the aspects of both the civil and Jewish law.
Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. – Divorce Attorneys