Pre-Nups in the News

I’ve written a number of times about pre-nuptial agreements in general and specifically, halachic pre-nuptial agreements intended to prevent issues of refusal to give or accept a get, a Jewish bill of divorce.

The Tzohar organization in Israel has recently formulated a new halachic pre-nuptial agreement, which they refer to as a  “love agreement”. Not sure I would have gone with that particular moniker, but if it works….

The agreement was formulated by a number of very knowledgeable and responsible people in the fields of Family Law and Jewish Law, so I expect it will be widely used. Having said that, as good as an agreement may be, it’s always the wiser part of discretion to consult with an expert before signing any kind of an agreement, to make sure it serves your needs.

In addition, an article by Chicago filmmaker Beverly Siegel- director of the 2011 film “Women Unchained” –  in the Tablet recently caught my eye. It’s a great survey of the whole issue of pre-nuptials. Here’s a segment  of the article, but I highly recommend reading the entire piece:

The earliest prenuptial agreement to prevent get refusal was developed by rabbis in Morocco in the 1950s and endorsed in concept by the chief rabbi of Jerusalem in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, Rabbi Mordechai Willig developed an American version at the behest of the Rabbinical Council of America, the main association of Modern Orthodox and centrist Orthodox rabbis, with which the Beit Din of America, a rabbinic court, is affiliated. A decade later, Israel came out with its own version, known as the Agreement for Mutual Respect.

The BDA agreement contains two simple provisions: First, if either spouse requests, the couple agrees to appear before a panel of dayanim, judges, and to abide by their decision regarding the get. Second, if the couple separates, the husband’s obligation under Jewish law to support his wife will be set at $150 a day, indexed to inflation, from the date he receives notice of her intention to collect, until the time that they are no longer married under Jewish law—i.e., until he gives a get.

The prenup says nothing directly about a get, as that could be interpreted as compromising a man’s free-will decision to give it; the man must give the get freely—although in the 12th century, Maimonides created a loophole that allowed rabbis to beat a man to help him realize that he willed his wife her freedom. Instead, the prenup just enforces the husband’s obligation, as set forth in the ketubah, the Jewish wedding contract, to support his wife. Basically, the prenup imposes a monetary cost to a husband’s decision to stay married to her.

But if the wife fails to appear in beit din or abide by the court’s decision, the husband’s support obligation ends.

“It’s a rock-solid solution,” said Rabbi Yona Reiss, head of the religious court of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and past director of the Beit Din of America. The prenup, said the Yale-trained lawyer, “has produced a get in a timely fashion in 100 percent of the cases where it was duly executed.”

Before it was challenged in civil court, however, some critics contended that if the prenup worked, it was only because the men who signed it would have given a get without a dustup anyway. Doubts about the prenup’s ability to withstand a legal challenge were significantly allayed in February 2013 when a Connecticut court affirmed its constitutionality. In the opinion of the judge, the BDA prenup, in terms of enforceability, was no different than a secular contract.

“It’s a huge win for the Orthodox Jewish world,” said Dr. Rachel Light, the agunah in the case, who received a significant award and a get.

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One Response to Pre-Nups in the News

  1. Ilana says:

    I would agree the wording is quite odd- but none-the-less its a step in the right direction.

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