While divorce in the United States is governed by a non-religious family court system, there are situations when religion plays a major role in the dissolution of marriages. One obvious example is a so-called “Jewish divorce,” as orthodox Jews must follow a number of mandatory steps when pursuing a divorce. In some situations, these steps can affect financial issues related to divorce – even if Jewish laws have no power in US courts. 

The Concept of the “Ghet”x

Orthodox Jewish wives may only get divorced if their husbands grant them a “ghet” or “get.” This is a document that provides permission for the wife to leave the marriage and dissolve the marriage. Without the “ghet,” it is virtually impossible for the wife to end the marriage on her own terms – at least not without committing a major religious offense and potentially leaving the faith altogether. In addition, a woman’s children may be shunned by other Orthodox Jews if she chooses to remarry without a ghet. 

This situation has the power to affect both the husband and the wife in a Jewish marriage. Men who are reluctant to grant their wives ghets could be pressured into doing so with a number of questionable strategies. One report by Deseret News highlighted the case of Rabbi Mendel Epstein, who faced trial for an alleged “kidnap-and-torture ring.” Apparently, wives would pay this rabbi to exert unlawful pressure on their husbands, essentially forcing them to grant the ghets. 

On the other hand, the concept of the ghet also has the power to affect wives. A wife who is denied a ghet is stuck in a state of limbo, unable to leave her marriage and yet unwilling to continue with it. In some cases, Jewish wives make unthinkable financial concessions in order to secure their ghet – often giving up access to alimony, child support, and property division in the process. 

According to one report by the LA Times, a Jewish wife was forced to pay her husband $150,000 just so that he would grant the ghet that she so desperately wanted. This clearly illustrates the effect that orthodox Judaism can have on spouses’ financial outcomes. This story is hardly unique, and many other Jewish wives may have been forced to make similar financial concessions in their pursuit of ghets. 

The Role of Rabbinical Courts

It is also worth noting that orthodox Jews have their own system of courts – known as “rabbinical courts.” According to the Orthodox Jewish faith, only these Rabbinical courts have the power to dissolve marriage. This system is especially common in Israel, but these courts are starting to develop different strategies to deal with the unique issues related to Jewish divorce. One report states that prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly common in Israel, as many spouses wish to handle their separations on their own terms without involving concepts like ghets or Rabbinical courts. 

Judaism is Not the Only Faith That Can Affect Divorce 

It is worth mentioning that there are many other faiths that can have an impact on a divorce’s outcome. One obvious example is Roman Catholicism, which requires spouses to get annulments from their churches before moving forward with the dissolution of their marriages. Financial pressures may be exerted in the pursuit of these annulments – just like ghets.