1. Screening Cases for Get Issues
Whenever representing a client who was marries in a Jewish ceremony (of any Jewish denomination), always ask if the client is interested in a Jewish divorce (Get). Orthodox or conservative clients will most likely be familiar with the Get. For those clients who are unfamiliar with the get but interested in learning more, explain that without a get, a woman may not be remarries by either a Conservative or an Orthodox Rabbi, and advise the client to pursue the matter further with his or her Rabbi. If either of the parties has already approached a Rabbinical Court (Beit Din) regarding the Get, inquire as to which Rabbinical court, and the status of the case. When representing Orthodox clients, inquire as to whether the parties signed a Halachic prenuptial agreement (which will be explained below), and ask to see a copy.
2. Referral to Appropriate Religious Court
If the client is interested in receiving a Get, and has not already appeared before a Beit Din, refer the client to the appropriate Beit Din. The Orthodox Boston Beit Din will handle a Get case so long as the parties are Jewish and were married in a Jewish ceremony, the parties need not be Orthodox. If the client is Conservative, he or she should be referred either to the Boston Beit Din or to Rabbi Karen Reiss Medwed, a local Conservative Rabbi who handles Conservative Jewish divorces.
3. Timing of Filing
It is generally suggested that if parties are going to be seeking a Jewish divorce, they should approach the Beit Din before commencing a civil divorce action. This ensures that the parties do not attempt to withhold the giving or accepting of the Get in the civil divorce negotiations. Meaning that if the Jewish divorce case hasn't been commenced or is pending, one of the parties may introduce the granting or accepting of the get as a bargaining chip in order to gain the upper hand on issues such as spousal support, equitable distribution, or child custody.
4. Screening for Potential of Get Abuse
The ramifications of Get refusal are particularly severe for Orthodox women, and it is therefore imperative that attorneys re[resenting these women either ensure that the husband grants the Get before the civil case is concluded, or, at a minimum, include language in the settlement agreement such that the husband agrees to give the Get by date certain. Thereafter, if the husband fails to comply, a contempt motion should be filed with the court that granted the civil divorce. Because Get refusal often correlates with domestic abuse, in any case where there is domestic violence, it is especially important to take steps to ensure the granting of the Get.
5. Prenuptial Agreements
The mot successful Get refusal deterrent at this point is the Halachic prenuptial agreement. It is signed by the parties before their Jewish marriage, and is an agreement that they will submit to arbitration before the Beit Din the issue of their Jewish divorce. Pursuant to these agreements, the parties agree to appear before the Beit Din in the event of the dissolution of the marriage. If the husband refuses to cooperate with the giving of the Get, he must pay his wife a certain amount for every day hat the parties no longer live together. There is no specific caselaw on whether these agreements are civilly enforceable aside from Light v. Light. However, in New York State, enforcement has been sought as part of civil divorce actions before the Supreme Court. Civil enforcement aside, the Prenuptial agreements are highly effective, because the parties who sign them generally abide by them, i.e. they prevent Get refusal on the part of the husband. For more information on the Halachic prenup, please visit theprenup.org.