Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dr. Marc Shapiro: The Aguna Problem part 2 Is the husband always obligated to give a Get?

Seforim Blog  [...]  Let me make one final point. In matters of divorce my feeling is that when either husband or wife wants a get, and it is obvious that there is no future in the marriage, then neither party should prevent the divorce from taking place. There shouldn’t be any reason to go to a beit din to force a divorce. Adults should be able to see that the marriage isn’t working out and come to a conclusion that it is time to end it. Any husband who chooses to withhold a get when he knows that the marriage is over is acting in a very cruel way, and the full weight of halakhically acceptable communal pressure should be brought on him. Nothing should scandalize us more than a so-called religious person keeping his wife captive as a means of revenge. I would even suggest reading the names of some agunot during the Shabbat prayers, in order to sensitize people to the issue.
I know that many people will regard what I have just written as obvious. What I will now say might anger some, but I think that it too should be obvious. I have often heard it said that a get should never be withheld, and that the get should be given immediately. For example, on ORA’s website it states: “[I]t is never acceptable to refuse to issue a get once the marriage is irreconcilable.” On JOFA’s website it states: “As soon as it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation, the Get should be written and delivered to the woman so that it cannot be used as a bargaining tool in financial or custody negotiations.” 

While in general both these statements are correct, it is not correct that this is always the case. For instance, let’s say the wife runs away to Europe with the kids. Does anyone seriously think that the husband is still obligated to give her a get? In such a circumstance it is entirely appropriate for the husband to insist that she come back to the United States and settle all custody issues before a get is issued. Or let’s say a husband and wife separated, and the wife refuses to let the husband see his children. It could be many months before the secular court rules on the matter of visitation. Why would anyone think that in the meantime the husband is obligated to give his wife a get if she refuses to allow him to see his children? I don’t think that there is any reputable beit din in the world that would side with the woman in these two cases. These are obviously extreme examples, and have nothing to do with the typical agunah case we hear about. Yet we should be aware that there are nuances that sometimes come into play, and every case must be investigated by a reputable beit din before judgments are made.[...]

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