Australian rabbis are now considering making couples get a prenup, or they will refuse to marry them. Including in that prenuptial agreement would be the mandatory release not only of predetermined amount of cash but something more valuable — a spiritual divorce.
In the Jewish faith, whether one is Reform or Orthodox, couples have a religious marriage as well as a civil marriage. Couples sign a "ketuba," a marriage contract, which signifies their union to their faith and each other.
But after a divorce, unless a “get,” a religious divorce, is given, the wife or husband is not considered spiritually divorced and cannot remarry in the Jewish faith.
These holdouts cause many religious Jews serious angst; some rabbis consider spouses who don’t release the get to be vindictive.
The Chicago Rabbical Council puts it well when it says: “It is the expectation of our tradition that parties that were once bound by sacred vows will respect each other sufficiently to participate fully in the Get process. This cooperation allows both parties to proceed with their new lives, in a spirit of propriety and dignity.”
Unless it doesn’t. One case in Israel has stretched on for 18 years, with the couple legally divorced, but not divorced spiritually.
It is to typical that it is the husband who will not give a get, there is a name for women who have failed to get a spiritual divorce from their ex-husbands: agunot.
Hence, some progressive minded Australian rabbis have discussed making it a mandatory item in a prenup, along with the regular division of assets and determination of financial support.
In the Jewish faith, women can divorce men for not satisfying them, since the religion considers a woman's feelings as important as a man’s. But some men use the get as a way to punish the woman for rejection, since civil divorce laws only decide assets, not gets.
Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant of Victoria, Australia, said “Not many things anger me, but it angers me when a partner uses a get to hurt their spouse.”
In an effort to overcome the problem, he has enlisted retired Family Court Justice Joseph Kaye and family lawyer Andrew Strum to discuss the feasibility of a program and to help draft a model document, which still needs to be tested from a civil and religious perspective.
Armed with such a prenup document, people who get divorced will be able to split up both legally and spiritually.
However, it may be difficult to convince couples to use prenups since the majority of them cannot see beyond the lovey-dovey present and into the technicalities of getting divorced.
They find it unromantic to consider splitting up while hooking up.
“A lot of couples are reluctant to contemplate the concept that they will fall out of love,” acknowledged Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of Sydney, who is also in favor of a religious provision for divorce in a prenup.
Rabbi Lawrence also has another proposal: a post-marriage contract that would require the husband to come before the rabbinical court in case of divorce.
“It is a catch-all,” he said, and better than nothing.