When the Get Process Fails/Rabbi Martin Rosenfeld

Everyone’s experience is shaped by what they have personally observed. For a number of years in my adult life I have been involved in divorce matters as both a Menahel of a Bais Din and, more recently, as a divorce mediator. I believe there are usually five reasons why a spouse (husband or wife; the cooperation of both is needed for a Get to take place) will not cooperate in the Get process:

1. The spouse is battling mental or emotional issues. In such cases, there is even a halachic question as to whether a get can take place until mental health is established. The family and friends of the affected party (or the ex-spouse himself or herself), need to assure that there is proper therapeutic intervention for the “patient”. This may delay the Get process but it is a tragic situation which rises to the level of ”ones” or unintended non-cooperation.

2. There are times where the party whose cooperation is needed is simply feeling the effects of the trauma of a dissolved relationship. They will not withhold the Get indefinitely, but they request additional time to deal with their feelings of being overwhelmed. It is likely that such a situation will need the proper testimony or documentation from mental health practitioners, but the request for more time before one will participate in the Get process, should be viewed with much seriousness by the involved Bais Din.

3. Some parties are simply spiteful. They wish to punish their spouse for the “audacity” of requesting a divorce. It always strikes me during mediations how it is so jarring to see how love for a party can turn, over time, into bitterness and hate. I have little sympathy for such spiteful parties and the Bais Din needs to remind such parties that it is time to “move on” in life. Bitterness and hate will not only consume the other spouse, it will affect the offending party, most of all.  Living with hateful feelings will not make life very enjoyable for the party emitting this hatred. Perhaps this advice of the need to constructively plan for the future can be dispensed by the Bais Din in a manner that can be heard.

4. Some parties are going to use the Get process as a bargaining chip for money. There is nothing I can offer such parties in the way of understanding. This is the ultimate Chilul HaShem and it causes our community much embarrassment.

When I was in yeshiva high school, I had a history teacher who was Jewish but not known to be observant. He always suspected that there was cheating on his exams. His response was simple Before exams, he would remind us that we were yeshiva students. His words ring in my ears: “If you cheat on my test, you will be making a mockery of everything they teach you here in the morning.” There is little else that needs to be said about this category.

5. A party may be prepared to give a Get, but only after all matters in dispute have been resolved. Of late, I have seen many quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein as having been a proponent of such behavior. From my own review of Igros Moshe, I cannot say with definitiveness that was indeed Rav Moshe’s opinion. However, I do know that many Poskim offer such advice to those embroiled in divorce disputes. The only suggestion I would make is that perhaps Batei Din could see whether in such cases a Get could first be written and them kept in escrow until all conditions are met. However, I do not claim any special halachic expertise in this matter and all such questions need to be discussed with local Poskim and /or Batei Din should they arise. No two situations will be alike and these matters require much deliberation.

The above categories may not be all-inclusive, but I believe one can conjecture that more than 95% of Get disputes, fall into one of these categories. One category not covered above is the situation where one party is no longer frum and has little interest in cooperating. When I was a Bais Din Menahel I often advised non-observant Jews that the Get was needed to give them closure on the marital relationship. I was gratified to see how many parties told me afterwards that they believed that the Get process had indeed provided such closure, and they were happy that they had decided to participate fully in this process.





About njmediator

I am a family attorney and mediator who believes that disputes can be resolved civilly and with dignity. I am a proponent of divorce mediation as a well to deal with the end of a marriage. I maintain websites at www.NJMediationWorks and www.CivilDivorceCivilGet.com.
This entry was posted in Agunah, Divorce, Divorce Mediation, Jewish Divorce and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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