Religious Divorces and Civil Divorces
The Domestic Relations Law in New York mandates that, when spouses are married in a religious ceremony, the Plaintiff (the spouse commencing the action for divorce) must take, or must promise to take, all actions in his or her power to remove any barriers to the other spouse’s remarriage. No final judgment of divorce may be granted where the Plaintiff has failed to take these steps. The Defendant may waive his or her rights under this section of the Domestic Relations Law.
While the statute does not specifically reference any particular religion, the situation where the necessity for a religious divorce most prominently arises is in the Jewish community.
In order to remarry under Jewish law following a divorce, a religious divorce, known as a Get, must be obtained in addition to a civil divorce. While some reform rabbis accept a civil divorce as sufficient to dissolve a Jewish marriage, it is also important to obtain a Get so that any children of the second marriage are considered the product of a “valid marriage” and will be accepted into the Jewish community.
New York State law takes seriously the dual nature of Jewish divorces, and Courts have imposed punishments on spouses refusing to provide their former spouse with a Get or for failing to accept a Get. See Margulies v. Margulies, 42 A.D.2d 517, 344 N.Y.S.2d 482 (1st Dept. 1973 (husband fined for failing to appear before a Jewish court for the purpose of obtaining the Get); Kaplinsky v. Kaplinsky, 198 A.D.2d 212, 603 N.Y.S.2d 574 (2nd Dept. 1993) (court held former husband in contempt of court for his failure to deliver Get to former Wife, and imposed term of imprisonment and withholding of economic benefits from former husband until he purged himself of his contempt); Waxstein v. Waxstein, 57 A.D.2d 863, 394 N.Y.S.2d 253 (2nd Dept. 1977), (court ordered that stock and deed to marital residence were not to be turned over to husband until he obtained a Get pursuant to separation agreement); Matter of Rubin v. Rubin, 75 Misc.2d 776, 348 N.Y.S.2d 61 (Family Court Bronx County 1973) (court refused to enforce foreign divorce decree until wife accepted Get as required by separation agreement).
Westchester Matrimonial attorneys are familiar with all aspects of Jewish divorce. Contact an experienced Westchester Matrimonial Attorney today to have all of your questions about religious divorce answered!