Jewish Orthodox Marriages Face Prenuptial Agreement Controversies

A prenuptial agreement can be used by couples who are preparing to enter into marriage to set some ground rules upfront about what must be done in the event that their marriage was not meant to be forever. This is growing in popularity across the country, even here in New York, as people start to recognize it not as a sign that their spouse lacks faith in the marriage’s chances but rather that their spouse cares so much about them that they want to make certain no one is hurt on the way out. For members of the Orthodox Jewish religion, however, creating a prenuptial agreement can be met with unexpected and unique complications and controversy.

In Orthodox Judaism, for a divorce to be considered complete, the marriage must be dissolved civilly and religiously. The civil aspect is not exclusive to the faith – one or both spouses head down to the county clerk office, file for divorce, and get a divorce attorney. It is the religious aspect that is causing some snags. Only men in the religion can approve of a religious divorce – a get – and may have their own reasons for denying it. As a prenuptial agreement is controlled by civil courts, it is difficult, if not impossible, for any legal powers to force a man to recognize the divorce religiously, even in cases where a prenuptial agreement was drafted.

Solutions Might Not Come Easily

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article (“For Orthodox, a Different Kind of Prenup” by Melanie Grayce West) that seemed to herald prenuptial agreements in Orthodox Judaism – or a halachic prenuptial – as the go-to solution for a complete divorce. It remarked that it helped women avoid “messy” situations where they could be trapped in a marriage by a potentially abusive husband. In a “letter to the editor” article (which you can read on their site by clicking here), some readers expressed that a halachic prenuptial has less power than the article suggested.

One reader noted that prenuptial agreements in Orthodox Jewish marriages punished men who denied a divorce by fining them $150 each day they refused to acknowledge the petition. However, this fiscal penalty could rarely be held up in a civil court of law due to its religious roots, and men would rarely have to pay it. Another reader believed that the only solution for making civil prenuptial agreements act fully as they are meant to in the Orthodox Judaism church would be for the rabbinate to reevaluate the necessity of a man’s approval of a “get.”

If you would like to know more about traditional prenuptial agreements, contact our Long Island divorce attorneys at Hedayati Law Group P.C. today. We have more than 100 years of combined legal experience tackling family law cases, complex and straightforward. You can even get started with a free consultation with our team.

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