Jewish divorce

When planning their wedding, many couples choose to say their vows in their place of worship, be that a church, synagogue or mosque to name but a few. By doing so, most marriage ceremonies will be conducted in compliance with both civil and religious laws so that the marriage is legally recognised under both strands.

It therefore follows that on a divorce, certain religious formalities may also need to be followed in tandem with the civil procedure, to properly dissolve the marriage under both civil and religious law. A failure to do so could give rise to difficult issues in the future, particularly where children are born to a new partner, or where either party wishes to remarry.

‘Jewish couples in particular need to be aware that alongside the civil divorce documents, they must also obtain a Jewish divorce document, known as a get from the Jewish Court,’ advises Anya Gold, family law solicitor experienced in Jewish divorce proceedings.

What is a get?

A get requires the consent of both parties, but under Jewish law there is no requirement for either party to establish grounds for divorce against the other. To be effective, the husband must grant the get which in turn, is accepted by the wife.

Obtaining a get

The process to obtain a get can be started before or alongside the civil divorce proceedings. However, a key difference between the two is that a get cannot be obtained while the couple remain living together under one roof.

In contrast, the civil divorce procedure recognises that a separation has taken place even if the couple continue to live in the same property. These days it is not uncommon for spouses to remain living in the same house after separation, and situations can therefore arise where the decree absolute is pronounced dissolving the civil marriage sometime before the get is granted.

In the past, spouses have sought to use this as a bargaining device, withholding a get in order to achieve a more advantageous financial settlement for example, with few alternatives available to the other party.

Protection from the law

To counter this issue, in February 2003 the Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act came into force. This gave the family court authority to prevent a decree absolute from being granted until both parties have made a declaration that they have taken such steps as required to dissolve the marriage in accordance with Jewish law.

However, this protective remedy is of no use once the civil divorce has concluded.

It is therefore essential that all couples when contemplating a divorce, identify from the outset whether both civil and religious formalities apply to them. By clarifying these issues early on, it will ensure there is sufficient time and opportunity to address any sticking points and lead, hopefully, to a smooth resolution.

For more information on obtaining a get or getting a divorce if you are Jewish, please contact Anya Gold, divorce lawyer 020 7426 0400 or email ag@milesandpartners.com.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published. You should always take legal advice relating to your individual circumstances.