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Why Does a Jewish Woman Need a “Get?”


Question: Why Does a Jewish Woman Need a “Get?”

Under Jewish divorce law only a man can commence a divorce action. Orthodox communities follow this law strictly and only recognize a divorce action if it is begun by the husband. Conservative and Reform Jewish communities feel that although the Talmud says it is the husband who must commence the Get (sefer k’ritot), the wife may begin the process of the Get by convening a rabbinical court (beit din).

What is the Purpose of a Get?

The very notion of a Get procedure is to fore-stall the instantaneous termination of a marriage. The Rabbinical Court will deliberate, and the first point of deliberation will be to see if outstanding issues between the couple can or cannot be corrected. It is only after this avenue of approach has been explored and found to be futile that the court will entertain the matter of the legitimacy of the claims.

A Jewish woman may seek on a divorce on the grounds of:

A Jewish man may seek a divorce on the grounds of:

  • Denial of basics or the refusal of conjugal relations,
  • Adultery,
  • Impediments, a physical “blemish” the husband may find unbearable,
  • Spoiling the meal, if she can’t cook she has to go,
  • Irreconcilable differences

Under Jewish law marriage is a sacred commitment and unlike most religions divorce should only be considered as a last resort. When a husband or wife goes before a Rabbi with desire for a Get the Rabbi is more likely to suggest that a couple seeks counseling before pursuing the Get. Except in cases of abuse which is frowned upon under Jewish divorce law.

Although a woman is not allowed to divorce until her husband signs the Get in most cases a husband won’t fight the process. Once a wife receives the Get she is considered divorced and can choose to remarry again under Jewish law. If she doesn’t receive a Get then she is not permitted to remarry under Jewish law.

The Get is not to be mistake as a civil divorce granted under state divorce laws and is not recognized by the residential state as a “divorce.” A Jewish woman may obtain a civil divorce but her divorce will not be a recognized dissolution of her marriage under Jewish law. If a Jewish woman wants to be free of her husband both legally and under the strictest interpretation of halacha, she needs both a civil divorce and a Get, and must initiate proceedings for each individually.

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