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What is the Jewish system for divorce?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Life Cycle » Marriage » Divorce | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Unless you're in an abusive relationship, most rabbis will suggest marriage counseling and whatever other methods to try to keep the marriage together. Just "falling out of love," is usually not a good reason to get divorced.

When all else fails and it appears absolutely necessary, there is a prescribed system of divorce that is done in accordance with Jewish law. Jewish law created the bond between husband and wife in the first place, and Jewish law sets the tone for the Get, the document that severs those ties.

1. Marriage is a legal bond between people, and the spiritual unification of souls. Divorce is the separation. Because the legal bond of marriage is also a spiritual event, it requires the spiritual ceremony of the Chupah. And because the legal severance of divorce is also a spiritual event, it requires the spiritual ceremony of the Get (Hebrew for "divorce document"). Positive Mitzvah #222 is to divorce via Get (should it come to that unfortunate option).

2. A get is a document hand-written in Hebrew by a Sofer, containing personal information such as full names and titles of both parties, and the prescribed Halachic statement of divorce. It is written specifically for this couple, and in the presence of two witnesses. It is then reread and given to the woman in the presence of two witnesses and a rabbinical court1. The actual Get is then returned to the court for safekeeping in the court's archives, and release documents are supplied to both husband and wife, without which they cannot remarry.

3. To prevent questions of future children's pedigree, the woman may not remarry until the 92nd day after getting a get.


  • 1. There is also a prescribed statement said by the husband (or by his appointed emissary) upon handing the Get to the woman, the translation of which goes something like this: “This is your Get; receive this Get, and with it you will immediately be divorced from me and permitted to [marry] any person”.
TAGS: get


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Posted by: Anonymous, Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Mar 21, 2005

Is it true that in order for a woman to obtain a divorce the husband must sign the get? What happens if he refuses?

Editor's Comment

The divorce document isn't actually signed by the husband, but the husband must consent to the divorce proceedings or it is invalid.

If he refuses, and the beth din (Jewish court) concurs that he must issue the divorce, then the beth din may do anything within their power, including excommunication or corporeal punishment, to compel the husband to "agree" to the divorce.


Posted by: Sarah, South Hadley, MA on May 12, 2005

What happens if the husband isn't willing to give the wife a get but they do have a civil divorce (assuming that there is no halachic exception like abuse)? Is the woman then bound to the man for the rest of her life or until he gives her a get? Also, what happens if one of them gets re-married without the get in a civil marriage?

Editor's Comment

1. A civil divorce does not change the halachic status of the couple; they are still 100% married until the woman receives a Get.

2. If a woman "remarries" without a Get -- technically it isn't considered a marriage, it is an extra-marital affair -- all children born from this union are mamzerim (bastards). Children born to a man who remarries without a Get are not mamzerim, because according to Biblical law a man can marry two wives. [See Is polygamy still allowed today?]


Posted by: Chava, Zefat, Holy Israel on Jan 12, 2006

With regard to the above comment, I have heard that many couples who don't get a get haven't had a chuppah wedding either (especially in the states, europe, etc) so they are really just "boarding" and if they get a civil divorce, their children are not mamzerim because the couple was never really married at all! Can you tell me if this is true or not?

Editor's Comment

Only an expert rabbi can make such a determination, and each and every case is unique and must be judged on its own merits.

Additional information

Posted by: Yanky Nemon on Sep 07, 2006

As someone who is involved with Gittin, I'd just like to point out a couple more things.

1} A get is a very LEGAL proceeding for severing the marriage which is a legal bond between man and woman.

2} A get is always written on paper, not parchment, because on paper the ink will not be effaced. This is a measure taken to prevent forgery.

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Wedding canopy. Under this canopy, the groom betroths the bride with the customary ring, and the traditional marriage benedictions are recited.
A scribe. One who writes Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzahs.