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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Rabbinical Court

After reflection and deliberation, hope and disappointment, and perhaps after difficult negotiation and/or litigation, you have reached the moment of truth, and the end of the divorce process is near. The divorce procedure in rabbinical court and the get ceremony may seem bizarre, redundant, and inconvenient. You must keep in mind that the process itself is the result of thousands of years of complex rabbinic legislation and ammendation, and the purpose of the present-day ceremony is to make sure that the get is unquestionably valid according to all aurthoities. The get is your license to marry again. It is in your interest that the bet din does all it can to guarantee its validity before any future civil or religious challenge.

Who Must Come?
Both husband and wife must be present at the proceedings in bet din. Even if only one of the spouses opened the divorce file, at this point there must be cooperation between the two since both will have to attend a few sessions in bet din. If you hired an attorney or rabbinical advocate as legal advisor, s/he should also be with you in bet din, unless s/he was hired exclusively for the divorce agreement and his/her job is already completed. For the beirur shemot (name verification) proceeding, you will also need to bring witnesses, role will be discussed later.

It is a good idea for one or two friends to come with you for emotional support or just to help you pass the time while waiting at the bet din. The proceedings and the preparation of the get take several hours, during much of which you will simply be waiting around. The wife will also need to wait about an hour more while the scribe and her former husband write the get. Having a friend with you is especially important while you wait in the hallways of the bet din -- often a rather unpleasant experience. In addition to grappling with your own feelings and those of your former spouse, you may well be exposed to ugly arguements, screaming and/or crying by other couples in the same waiting room. It is not advisable to bring children to the bet din.

If you do not speak Hebrew well, you should bring along an interpreter who can help you communicate with the bet din. Preparing the get requires ongoing interchange between you and the court. If the judges are not confident that you understand them and/or if you can't answer their questions properly, they will not approve the get. The bet din at times provides interpreters, but at other times the language issue can cause a significant delay in the divorce proceedings.

In contrast to most cases in Israeli courts that have ‘open hearings’, divorce proceedings both in rabbinical court and in family court are closed to the public, and disclosure of information about the proceedings is prohibited.

What to Bring?
You will need to bring various documents with you, on the day of your divorce, as well as certain items that will hopefully make the day easier for you:
• Both of your teudot zehut (identity cards) including an updated addendum;
• 2 passport photos for each of you, for the issuance of divorce certificates (unless you submitted these photos when you registered);
• Something to keep you busy while you wait, and a snack and drink;
• It is advisable not to wear jewelry such as rings and bracelets, since at the time of the giving of the get, you will be asked to remove them, in order to insure a direct transfer of the get from the man’s hands to the woman’s.

How to Dress?
Since the people you will meet in the rabbinical court are generally religious and rabbinic personalities, try to show respect for them by dressing appropriately. Men and women may come in long pants and short sleeved shirts, but try not to come in shorts, tank tops or revealing clothing. Since this is a public institution, you are entitled to proper service, no matter how you are dressed. Yet, nevertheless – if you respect others, others will respect you.

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