The Domestic Relations Law in New York mandates that, when spouses were 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 concept of and necessity for a religious divorce most often arise in the Jewish community.
Conservative and Orthodox Judaism require that a religious divorce, known as a “Get” must be obtained in addition to a civil divorce in order to enable either party to remarry. Thus, a person may be considered divorced by the Reform Jewish community, but still married by the Conservative community. While some reform rabbis may accept a civil divorce as sufficient to dissolve a Jewish marriage, it is 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 has addressed the dual nature of Jewish divorces in its caselaw. 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 Dep’t 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 (2d Dep’t 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 (2d Dep’t 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 (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 and Jewish law. Contact an experienced Westchester Matrimonial Attorney today to have all of your questions about Jewish Orthodox divorce answered!