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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The decision to divorce is not an easy one.
You may be experiencing irreconcilable differences in your married life or perhaps are just considering the option of divorce. Your thoughts about the future are no doubt accompanied by fears, frustration, and nostalgia for happier times, and also perhaps by a sense of relief and freedom.

If you decide to get divorced, you and your spouse will need to legally terminate your relationship in both Israeli and Jewish courts, before you each may embark on separate new lives.

Divorce is a crossways fraught both with risk and with promise, a time of longing and pain yet also of renewal and hope. Before you may set off, however, to find what possibilities the future holds, you must bring this chapter of your life to a close. The get, the Jewish document of divorce, allows you complete closure, and enables you to write the next chapter of your life, and even remarry, without lingering questions regarding your status and that of your children.

The divorce process involves the sorting out of emotional and family issues along with bureaucratic procedures. It is a process, which entails financial and legal wherewithal, foresight, negotiating abilities, and a great deal of patience, flexibility, and compromise. Though a swift straightforward divorce may initially seem ideal, upon further consideration, you may realize that you prefer a slow process, one which lends the appropriate weight and gravity to the decision you are making, and which gives you time to grapple with and come to terms with your situation.

According to Jewish law, the marriage bond is created and severed based on the will of the man and woman involved. Thus divorce can only take place pursuant to a mutual decision by the couple. Marriage and divorce are considered personal actions, which express man's autonomy and independence. They, therefore, require that both the man and woman understand and accept the consequences of their actions. It is the man and woman, and not the officiating rabbi, who create the marriage bond. Therefore, only they have the power to sever it. In most Western countries, by contrast, the courts may, in certain circumstances, end a marriage, upon appeal by one spouse, even without the consent of the other. According to Jewish law, however, the role of the court is confined to questions of testimony and evidence, and the drafting of the divorce papers (the 'get'). The fundamental roles are reserved for the husband and wife, in order to preserve their autonomy and freedom.

When husband and wife manage to cooperate and communicate with each other even when their marriage is experiencing difficulties and is about to end - their free will continues to serve as a model of autonomy and freedom. Sometimes, there is concern that either the husband or wife may abuse his/her right of autonomy in a way that will infringe upon his/her spouse's freedom. It is the court's job in these case to apply pressure on the recalcitrant spouse in a manner - that will prevent him/her from shackling his/her spouse in the marriage or setting unreasonable conditions for divorce - but will not impinge upon the couple's free will with regard to the get, and the validity of the get.

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