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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q8.32 TOC Q8.34 >

Question 8.33:
What can be done if the wife refuses to accept the get (divorce decree)?


Originally, halachah allowed for a get to be given without the wife's consent. Around a millenium ago the Ashkenazi community accepted a legislation by Rabbeinu Gershom that invalidates such gittin. Sefaradi acceptance of this law was more recent, but at this point it's universal practice.

If the refusal is due to insanity, or in certain other situations, the husband can leave the get in the hands of a court and recieve a "heter mei'ah rabbanim"—a permission from 100 rabbis to marry a second wife, despite our community's ban on polygamy. Otherwise, one needs to go to the beit din and see what other pressures can be applied.

In the US, the beis din could put her in nidui, a form of excommunication. As it's not legally enforcable, the nidui is often simply ignored. However, her attempt to make his life miserable could be held against her during civil divorce proceedings. New York and New Jersey actually have laws specifically addressing ex-spouses who create religious problems for the other's remarriage. Under such a law, the state mandates that a judge take into account that one spouse is using religion to create a barrier to the other spouse's remarriage. The details of such a law vary from state to state. When speaking to the beit din, ask if they could put you in touch with a knowledgable lawyer.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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