Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Prenuptial Agreements and Jewish Marriages

This subject lies way outside of my usual practice. Which might explain why I found it rather interesting. On the other hand, irate spouses are something well within the experience of every family law attorney.

Anther reason for writing about this is comes from having seeing two articles on the subject within the past two weeks. I assume it to be a bit newsworthy.

The first article came from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, with the headline of Saving women from the 'chain':

"Israeli citizens do not have the luxury of considering the issue of agunot a 'religious' or 'arcane' problem. All Israelis are required to marry and divorce within a religious framework, so that even the most secular Jew is affected. (Even Israelis who get married in Cyprus must be divorced according to Jewish law if they separate.)"


The "prenup" has been embraced by rabbinical authorities in the United States. In fact, the Rabbinical Council of America, the centrist organization of Orthodox rabbis in North America, insists that none of its members officiate at a wedding unless a proper prenuptial agreement has been signed. Some American rabbis even require couples to state publicly under the huppah that a prenup has been signed.

That lst paragraph made me attention when I saw the headline The Power Of Halachic Prenuptial Agreements. That came from The Jewish Press via Google Alerts.
Have you ever wondered why the incidence of iggun, women or men unable to remarry due to the refusal of a spouse to give or receive a get (Jewish divorce document) is dramatically lower in some Orthodox communities than in others?

The answer is relatively simple. In those communities where the Binding Arbitration Agreement of the Beth Din of America (BDA) is used regularly, iggun is relatively rare. Indeed, as far as I am aware, not one couple that has signed the BDA’s prenuptial agreement has faced an iggun problem.

In 1993, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) endorsed the BDA’s prenuptial agreement, developed by Rav Mordechai Willig (of the BDA) and Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg (of the Jerusalem Bet Din). Eminent poskim such as Rav Yitzchak Liebes, zt”l, and, ybl”a, Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz (of the BDA), Rav Ovadia Yosef, and Rav Chaim Zimbalist (of the Tel Aviv Bet Din) have also endorsed it.
Oh, and about the irate spouse:
As a dayan who has administered nearly two thousand gittin, I have seen the devastation experienced by those who did not sign the prenuptial. Once I delivered a hazmanah (summons) to a recalcitrant spouse who proceeded to attack me with a baseball bat. Another husband who refused to give his wife a get simply took the hazmanah and threw it in the garbage as soon as I delivered it to him.
Even those of us who are not Jewish would do well to read the second article for it sets out some very good emotional and psychological reasons for a prenuptial agreement.

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