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Legal Information: Religious

Abuse in the Jewish Community

Laws current as of August 7, 2018

What is the process of getting a “get?”

Once a husband has agreed to give a get, the process is uncomplicated.

The husband has a sofer (scribe) write the sefer k’ritot (scroll of severance) in front of him and two witnesses. The wife does not have to be present at this process, though she typically is. Traditionally, the husband delivers the get to his wife and places it in her hands. Her ritual acceptance of the document validates the divorce. The wife then returns the document to the beit din (rabbinical court) where it is cut to make sure it can never be used again and it is then filed away. The beit din gives both the husband and the wife a p’tur (statement of release), which says that they have received a get and are free to remarry.

Note: An agreement with the beit din may have some effects on even a civil divorce case. For more information about the effects of an agreement with the beit din, please see What is a “beit din?”

If there is a history of domestic violence or other abuse, or in a case where distance makes it impossible for a woman to come to the beit din, the woman does not have to attend the beit din or accept the get from her husband directly. Instead, the beit din can appoint an agent for the husband to bring her the scroll of severance. Her physical acceptance of the document still validates the divorce.

Can a woman start the “get” process?

Traditionally, only a husband can start the “get” process. However, some streams of Judaism now allow women to ask a rabbi or rabbinical court to start the get process to convince a husband to give a get.

In order to begin the get process as a woman, you can speak to your rabbi. If you do not have a rabbi, you can ask a friend or relative who trusts his/her rabbi to refer you, or you can find one through the websites of the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Reconstructing Judaism, or the Orthodox Union of Rabbis. (WomensLaw is not affiliated with any of these websites.)

Generally, if a civil divorce has not been issued, the rabbi may first suggest that you and your partner seek counseling before pursuing a get. However, if you are in an abusive marriage, counseling may not be a safe option for you. Batterers’ behavior often will not change even with counseling. If you feel that counseling is not a good option, or that delaying the divorce could put you in danger, be sure to be talk to your rabbi about this.

If counseling is not an option, or if after counseling you do not want to continue the marriage, you can likely begin proceedings for a get.

Can a woman bring a friend or advocate for support to the “beit din” to get the “get?”

A woman can bring a friend or advocate to the beit din (rabbinical court) for support. Also, if a woman is afraid to attend the beit din because of domestic abuse, she can refuse to attend and have an agent for her husband deliver the sefer k’ritot (scroll of severance) to her.