Legal Information: Religious

Jewish Get Law (Divorce Law)

Updated: 
March 12, 2010

How does someone get a “get”?

In order to get a get, first speak to your rabbi. If you do not have a rabbi, you can ask a friend or relative who trusts his/her rabbi to refer you, or you can find one through the websites of the Union for Reform Judaism http://data.urj.org/conglist/, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism http://www.uscj.org/Find_a_Synagogue_Sea5425.html, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation http://www4.jrf.org/cong, or the Orthodox Union of Rabbis www.ou.org. If you are an agunah, go to http://www.agunahinternational.com.


Under most circumstances, and assuming the couple has not already received a civil divorce, the rabbi will first suggest that you and your partner seek counseling. However, if you are in an abusive marriage, counseling may not be a safe option for you. Batterers' behavior often will not change even with counseling. If you feel that counseling is not a good option, or that to delay the divorce could make you unsafe, be sure to be talk to your rabbi about this.


If counseling is not an option, or if, after counseling, you do not want to continue the marriage, you can begin proceedings for a get in many Jewish communities. If you are an Orthodox woman, some authorities will not allow you to pursue a get because of a strict interpretation of halacha. Some liberal rabbis will allow any party to pursue a get. In most streams of Judaism, including Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and many more progressive Orthodox synagogues, a woman can ask her rabbi to convene a beit din or rabbinical court. The beit din will review the case, and can issue a summons requiring the husband to appear before it to give the wife a get.


It is important to note that even with such a summons, the beit din cannot actually force the husband to give a get, as halacha requires that the get must be given of a man’s own free will. There is ongoing debate about how to define “free will” and what is considered acceptable or unacceptable pressure for the beit din and the community to apply in such a case. It is also important to note that, outside the State of Israel, a beit din has no civil legal authority, so an unwilling or abusive husband may simply choose to ignore the summons. This does not mean that there is nothing that can be done. See below What kinds of actions might a community take against a mesarev get?