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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Divorce in the Courts vs. Divorce Within a Religious Community

For those who are not religious, divorce in civil court is sufficient to move on with their lives.  A divorce obtained in family court legally dissolves a marriage and the agreement reached in family court is the one that is given legal effect and that the state will enforce in terms of custody and asset division. A  Brooklyn, New York family court attorney help clients follow the legal steps necessary to obtain a divorce within the courts and to arrive at a fair settlement through either litigation or out-of-court mediation or negotiation.

For some individuals, however, a legal dissolution of a marriage by a family court is not the only step necessary. In many religions, there are different procedures associated with ending a marriage in the eyes of the religion and the eyes of the community. For example, many Catholics who divorce will seek an annulment from their church so they can get remarried. Within the Orthodox Jewish community, the faith’s decree of a divorce is even more essential for someone to move on with his or her life. In the Orthodox Jewish community, the decree of divorce is called a “get.”

Divorced Woman Speaks Out About Struggles Dissolving Her Marriage In Her Community

A recent article in the New York Post highlighted this disconnect between a civil divorce and a religious divorce. The article featured the story of one woman who married four-and-a-half years ago and who divorced in civil court in 2010.  The divorce in the New York courts officially ended the couple’s marriage and established a custody arrangement in which the child’s father received custody every other weekend as well as every Tuesday and Thursday. The mother has custody outside of the 12 hours per week that the child spends with the father.

Despite being legally divorced, however, the woman who wishes to date and someday get remarried is unable to do so because her husband will not grant her a get, which is necessary to be seen as divorced within the Orthodox Jewish Community. 

The woman indicates that she has tried everything she can to get her ex-husband to agree to give her the get so that they can move on. The couple has been through negotiations, and their families have tried to come up with a solution. However, he has proposed only that she override the custody agreement and pay him a huge sum of money in exchange for the get.

The unfortunate situation is one that the civil courts can provide little relief for -- at least after a divorce agreement is reached.The divorce is finalized in civil court already and under separation of church and state and religious rules within the Orthodox community, the civil court’s decree of divorce has no impact on the ability to obtain the get.  While the couple could perhaps have negotiated this issue at the time of the divorce if they reached a divorce settlement agreement outside of court, civil divorce and any religious institutions procedures for ending a marriage are entirely separate procedures. Just as one cannot legally dissolve a marriage by getting an annulment or get, a civil divorce also doesn’t guarantee that the couple will be separated in every possible sense.

In other cases, a couple may decide to simply separate and lead separate lives, so as to avoid the hassle of unwinding their marriage in the eyes of the church. In these cases, a formal legal separation is best pursued to protect a clients legal rights and long-term financial well-being. 

Our New York City divorce attorneys are available for consultation at (718) 864-2011.

More Blog Entries:

 New York No-Fault Divorce in Its Third Year, Oct. 26, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog


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