Getting a Jewish Divorce in the UK

What is the Get?

The Get is the Jewish form of divorce. The husband and wife must co-operate in obtaining the Get. If a spouse does not co-operate then whilst he/she may have obtained a civil divorce, by decree absolute, the couple will not be considered divorced within the Jewish religion.

Where possible the religious divorce should be dealt with within the same timeframe as the civil proceedings.

My husband says that he will issue a civil divorce based on adultery ? does that matter?

Yes. This will have a significant impact on you and your new partner (if named in the petition).

The reason for this is that if a married woman commits adultery before she has her Get, she and that man will never be able to marry each other in a religious ceremony. The civil divorce petition will provide evidence of a sexual relationship before divorce and as a result preclude the couple from a religious marriage.

If the couple choose to have children, within the Jewish religion, they will be considered illegitimate. Consequently, this could result in their exclusion, to a certain extent, from their religious community.

My wife will only obtain the Get if I agree to her financial demands-what can I do?

It is not unheard of for one party to try and use the Get as a tool with which to make unreasonable financial demands of the other. Until recently, there was little that the legal system could do to help a person who is being denied a Get or pressurised because of it. However, recent changes in the law go some way to avoid an abuse of the religious process for divorce as against the civil one.

What to do?

If one spouse does not co-operate with the other, a new piece of legislation called the Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act 2002 can be invoked to facilitate the Get. The 2002 Act therefore assists Jewish spouses to obtain a Get (and also other religious usages where the co-operation of a spouse is required in order to obtain a religious divorce).

The 2002 Act amends an existing piece of legislation called the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 by inserting a new section 10A. This section gives the court the discretion to delay the making of the decree absolute until the husband and wife have first obtained the Get. The court will make such an order where it is 'satisfied that in all the circumstances of the case it is just and reasonable to do so.'

The application will be prepared by your solicitor and submitted once the decree of divorce has been granted. The application is supported by an affidavit, which sets out the grounds on which the application seeks the order.

If the application is successful the court process is effectively suspended until such time as the parties have obtained their Get. The decree absolute will be granted if satisfactory evidence is placed before the court, which should be in the form of a declaration with the necessary certificate. The declaration confirms that the Get has been obtained and the certificate, which has been, issued by the 'relevant religious authority' corroborates that fact.

Finally, for the husband and wife who are divorcing and who are halachically Jewish, in order to ensure that the Get is recognised throughout the Jewish world it must be obtained from an Orthodox Beth Din.

Tracey Dargan practices family law with Curry Popeck, a firm of London solicitors.

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