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Scenarios

  1. Where is there a discussion where a woman (married in a religious ceremony) who did not receive a get but only a civil divorce can marry again?

  2. If she and her husband did not marry in a religious ceremony, but only in a civil ceremony, does she still need a get, before she can remarry?

  • Scenario #2 seems pretty clear that she does not need a get because she never received a ketubah and, technically, wasn't Jewishly married. Civil law is a separate application. – DanF Sep 13 '17 at 13:57
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    @DanF Scenario #2 is not pretty clear, and is highly debated amongst the Poskim. A Ketubah is not a requirement to be married, but it is forbidden for a man to be intimate with his wife without one. One of the ways to be Jewishly married is through relations, and some consider the fact the man and woman lived together as husband and wife enough to be considered halachically husband and wife. – Salmononius2 Sep 13 '17 at 14:05
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First question: the mishna at the beginning of tractate Kiddushin makes it clear that the only way a Jewish married woman is allowed to marry someone else is either with a Get (a Jewish divorce), or if the first husband dies.

Deuteronomy 24:1 makes it clear that the first husband has to give her a writ of divorce. (A civil divorce is issued by the courts; a Get, on the other hand, is a document that he hands her, stating "you are no longer married to me.")

It is not uncommon for a woman who's not all that religiously observant to have had a civil divorce; now she affiliates more with Jewish practice (or meets someone who does), and has to call up her ex-husband and ask if he's willing to go through a Jewish divorce ritual (i.e. order the rabbis to write up a Get and give it to her). I know of several such cases firsthand.

Note that as Judaism does not acknowledge any binding tie of marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, if the first husband wasn't Jewish, this would not be necessary.

If any of this may be practical for you or anyone you know, please contact the experts: info@bethDin.org. They are based in New York, but can make connections or references all over the world. Or if you're in Europe, try the London Beth Din. Here's a good article from them about the process; their phone number is listed as +44 020 8343 6270.


Second question: does a civil marriage still require a Jewish divorce ritual to dissolve?

The short answer is that this was subject to a lot of debate in the twentieth century. (It may even depend on how seriously people took civil marriage; in the Soviet Union, it was argued, people got them and dissolved them all the time, they just needed the bigger apartment! An even weaker case came up in the US if the civil marriage was a sham for the sake of someone's immigrant visa.) Everyone agrees that when at all possible, she should contact the ex and go through a Jewish divorce ritual. (If he's no longer alive, or he wasn't Jewish, then it's not a problem.) There are responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (who allowed it if necessary), his senior peer Rabbi Joseph Elijah Henkin (who didn't), and many others on this subject.

Similarly, here's the London Beth Din's policy (emphasis added):

Since Jewish law regards the mere fact of setting up home and living together as being possible evidence of marriage, the question should be asked of the Beth Din whether a Get is required in the event of ... registry office marriages

  • Thank you for the clarification. So, is "a Get ... required in the event of ... [civil] registry office marriages" (after a Jewish wedding)? – ninamag Sep 13 '17 at 13:07
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    @ninamag if there was an Orthodox wedding, a Get is always required. LBD is saying if there was only a civil marriage, (or a non-Orthodox marriage), some say a Get is required, some say it's not, so talk to them. – Shalom Sep 13 '17 at 13:20
  • "... Judaism does not acknowledge any binding tie of marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew ...." So a Beit Din hires a geneaological expert and dna expert, in order to make sure that plony-almony is indeed non-Jewish, so they can issue their rulings? Because I (like many others) know a lot of Jews who outwardly do not "look Jewish" or "act Jewish". – ninamag Sep 13 '17 at 15:11
  • @ninamag "look Jewish" is meaningless ... DNA is complicated ... I think they would just ask -- "was your ex Jewish?" Some people will do some genealogy. (Often something like "what was on your parents' tombstone?" is very telling.) Of course, all they really need to check is the ex's mother (or her mother). – Shalom Sep 13 '17 at 16:34
  • I have a technical question in regards to the words that you used. You wrote, "Deuteronomy 24:1 makes it clear that the first husband has to give her a writ of divorce." Would it be correct to say that the reason this Torah passage is "clear" is because Halacha backs it up? And if Halacha did not back this up, then this Torah passage would not be so clear? Would that be a fair understanding? – ninamag Sep 25 '17 at 9:54

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