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“Women Unchained”: Jewish Women Denied a Religious Divorce by their Husband

By Sheryl Rentz on March 28, 2012

Beverly Siegel, a Chicago-based filmmaker, made a documentary about Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce, known as a GET. The film, entitled “Women Unchained,” explores this phenomenon, which occurs because in traditional Judaism a husband may withhold a divorce. If this happens, the women seeking the divorce are then considered agunot, or “chained wives,” and between 2005 and 2010, a total of 462 cases existed in the U.S., according to a recent survey.

Secular courts in the U.S. cannot interfere in a religious divorce, which further complicates matters for the women, and violence may occur as a result. For example, a New Jersey couple was apprehended for arranging the kidnapping and beating of a man who refused to give a GET. Thus, some are promoting more civilized solutions to this problem.

Siegel urges women to sign the prenuptial agreement devised two decades ago by the Beth Din of America, a leading Orthodox religious court. Couples who sign this agreement agree to have all aspects of their religious divorce decided by a Jewish court. In addition, the husband agrees to pay his wife $150 a day in the event they separate until the pair is religiously divorced, adjustable for inflation. Basically, the husband will support his wife until he gives her a GET. Different versions of this religious prenuptial agreement exist, but the one promoted by the Beth Din of America is the most widely used.

A Rabbi for the court states this prenuptial agreement works to prevent agunah situations and the “improper use of the GET in divorce negotiations.”

Divorce is a complicated matter regardless of religious affiliation, and selecting a qualified divorce lawyer in Pennsylvania can help make the process of divorce less difficult and demanding for all parties involved. Sheryl R. Rentz has years of experience helping couples who have made the decision to divorce and has the knowledge needed to protect your legal rights throughout your case. Please contact our offices at (610) 645-0100 for a complimentary consultation.

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