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Legal Information: Religious

Jewish Get Law (Divorce Law)

Updated : 
March 12, 2010

How many states have “get” legislation?

In 1983, New York State passed the Get Law: Domestic Relations Law §253, which states that prior to a the court granting a civil divorce, both parties to the divorce will take all steps possible to remove any barriers to remarriage that the other party might encounter. This effectively means that in the State of New York, before a civil divorce is finalized, a Jewish husband must grant his wife a get. If you live New York State, be sure to talk to your civil lawyer and your rabbi about how to ensure that your husband gives you a get.

In 2007, the Maryland State Senate failed to pass a similar law, Bill 533. No state other than New York currently has get legislation. There is, however, case law in the statutory annotations of many states; this means that in any state, a court may or may not order a husband to give a get, depending on the circumstances of the case. Get cases are sometimes argued under the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” For example, in one New Jersey divorce case, the court decided that forcing the husband to give a get fulfilled the secular purpose of completing the divorce; since no religious ritual was required in order to obtain the get, and since the get in no way impacted his ability to practice his religion, his First Amendment rights were not infringed by this requirement. Speak to your lawyer about such possibilities.