Jewish communities in Pennsylvania and other states are experiencing continued difficulties with divorce. In the Orthodox Jewish faith, a divorce through the court system is not enough. The wife must first obtain a "get," which is a special letter written by her husband. It provides the woman with permission to leave the marriage. Without the document, she loses the ability to remarry and have legitimate children in the eyes of the faith. As a result, a growing number of Orthodox rabbis are insisting that couples obtain a prenuptial agreement before they get married.
These agreements effectively prevent the woman from becoming a "chained woman" who is essentially held hostage by the man she is trying to divorce. The prenuptial agreements make special provisions for couples to obtain judgments before religious courts. Further, men are required to pay a certain amount of money for every day they live apart from their wives but remain married.
This provision ostensibly discourages men from unfairly forbidding the women to move on with their lives. Men are known for using the "get" as a bargaining chip for more advantageous child custody provisions or marital property division. The prenuptial agreement system seems to have cut down on this practice. Challenges to provisions in the prenups have failed in divorce court, even though the documents originated from a faith tradition.
The "get" document is no laughing matter. Some in the Orthodox community have even resorted to violence to obtain the document. Most notably, some rabbis in New York were recently prosecuted for kidnapping reluctant men and beating them until they agreed to issue the document.
Prenuptial agreements make sense for many types of couples. Even if you are not part of the Orthodox Jewish community, you may consider drafting a prenup to make property division and other negotiations easier during a split. A qualified Pennsylvania attorney can help you learn more about your legal rights.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Why some rabbis are insisting: get the prenup before you marry" Lilly Fowler, Jan. 25, 2014