Legal Information: Religious

Jewish Get Law (Divorce Law)

March 12, 2010

Are there any proactive measures a woman can take to avoid becoming an “agunah” in the event of her marriage’s dissolution?

One of the best ways to prevent the possibility of becoming an agunah is either to sign a prenuptial agreement or to write a statement into your ketbuah indicating that, in the event of divorce, the husband agrees to give a get and the wife agrees to accept it.  The Orthodox rabbinate argues that writing such a clause (called the Lieberman Clause, in honor of the Reform rabbi who first introduced it) into the ketubah is non-halachic (invalid under Jewish law), but the Conservative rabbinate supports this measure.  Many rabbis, including Orthodox rabbis, support the signing of a prenuptial agreement.  This can be entirely separate from a secular (nonreligious) prenuptial agreement, and can refer exclusively to the responsibility of both parties to give and accept a get should the need arise.

Few who are about to get married really want to think about divorce because no one thinks it will happen to them.  However, the problem of the agunah is a serious one, and it is wise to protect yourself against such a situation.  Jewish couples already sign a ketubah, detailing their obligations to each other, so signing a prenuptial agreement is only one more step.

Many rabbis, including Orthodox rabbis, suggest that couples who are already married sign a postnuptial agreement stating that, in the event of divorce, the husband agrees to give a get and the wife agrees to accept it.  This, too, may seem like an awkward step for a married couple to take, but it just another way to safeguard both parties’ rights in the event of the marriage’s end.

Jewish people of all traditions should also educate their children about the problem of agunot, the necessity of respect in marriage, the qualities that define a healthy relationship, and the kinds of behaviors that are considered to be abuse. This education can help to prevent the problems of agunot and domestic abuse in the next generation.