Soc.Culture.Jewish Newsgroups
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 9.3:
Do you need a rabbi for a divorce?

Answer:

The appropriate answer to this depends on the movement with which you are involved, and whether or not you had a "Jewish" wedding. In this context, a "Jewish Wedding" is a marriage that was recognized as being under the laws of Moses and Israel. Intermarriages, regardless of the amount of Judaism practiced in the household or who performed the ceremony are not "Jewish" weddings because halacha (traditional Jewish law) does not recognize marriages between Jews and non-Jews. There are other types of marriages that are not recognized; consult your local rabbi for information.

Conservative and Orthodox Judaism require (and Reform recommends) that if you have a Jewish wedding, you should get a Jewish divorce, which is called a "get". This is because Judaism regards marriage as a special relationship between a man and a woman that begins with a holy bond. Just as that relationship is created through a religious act of marriage, it can only be abrogated through a Jewish act, the "get".

Note that a "get" is required even if you already have a civil divorce (with one exception: Reform, but not the other movements, accepts the civil divorce papers as equivalent to a "get"). According to Jewish law, a marriage is not dissolved until a bill of divorce (get) is exchanged between husband and wife. Most Non-Reform American Rabbis, and all Rabbis in Israel, will not officiate at a wedding if either party has been divorced without the benefit of a get.

Regardless of one's personal convictions or practices, or one's movemental affiliation, obtaining a "get" is important. This simple procedure does more than just assure the couple that they will be free to remarry should they so desire. It also prevents a tragic problem: a child born to a Jewish woman whose previous marriage did not terminate with a "get" may be considered illegitimate. Any Jew, whether observant or non-observant, needs to share in the concern for Jewish unity and in providing their children with a clean slate for the future.

A Jewish divorce is similar to many present-day legal transactions. A divorce contract (get) is drawn up under expert Rabbinical staff (consult your local Rabbi to find an appropriate party to do this) and signed by witnesses. The husband and wife are not subject to personal questions. If they choose to, they need not be present together.

A Jewish divorce usually takes an hour or two, during which time the get is prepared and executed. The parties are expected to provide proof of identification, and will be asked some formal questions to make it clear that the get is being executed on their behalf without coercion. Costs may vary in different cases, but on the average, a get costs US$350.00.

Note that we should add here that many rabbis will not issue a get until the civil divorce has been finalized in order to avoid problems.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <maintainer@scjfaq.org>