If my husband does not give me a “get,” can I still get a civil divorce?
If a husband refuses to give his wife a get, she can still get a civil (state law) divorce in all states.
Some states have specific protections for women whose husbands refuse to give a get. New York, for example, passed legislation referred to as the “Get Law,” which is in the Domestic Relations Law, section 253. This law says that when a party sues for civil divorce, it is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that there are no barriers to remarriage for either party —religious or otherwise—after the divorce. This effectively makes sure that a man cannot, under the laws of New York, refuse to give a woman a get.
Note: New York’s “Get Law” is currently being challenged in a case named Masri v. Masri. If you live New York, be sure to talk to your civil lawyer and your rabbi about if you can use this law to get a get, and how to ensure that your husband gives you a get.
If you live in a state other than New York, you may want to talk to your divorce lawyer to ask that s/he request that the judge make a similar order. Although many judges may not be willing to deal with this issue, a lawyer may be able to make legal arguments to convince the judge that ordering the husband to give a get is aligned with the purpose of a civil (state law) divorce. Go to our Finding a Lawyer page and choose your state from the drop-down menu for legal resources in your state. You can also find attorneys who work in get law on our Jewish Resources page.