Editor’s note: Due to the sensitive nature of this letter, we have removed all identifying information.
We are writing regarding ORA’s Q&A article in the relationships section of your December 1 issue entitled “The Purpose of a Halachic Prenup.” We would like to shed a bit more granularity on this issue based upon our recent experience with our daughter obtaining her get.
First and foremost, we want to acknowledge the halachic progress that has been made in the development of the Halachic Prenup and in its ever-widening acceptance within the Orthodox community. It has unquestionably raised awareness regarding the plight of the agunah and has created a halachic and civilly legally binding penalty for those recalcitrant husbands who have been officially deemed a seruv (get refuser) by a Beit Din.
However, it is very important to understand its limitations as well.
We are parents of a daughter who was married by an RCA rabbi and had a Halachic Prenup in place. We were erroneously under the impression that having this prenup would ensure that the get process would be an efficient and seamless one should it ever be necessary.
Our daughter was married for a little over a year. Unfortunately, her marriage quickly deteriorated to include verbal abuse. She finally left the day her husband physically abused her.
The RCA rabbi who officiated at the wedding advised us to be careful about going to the police to file domestic violence charges. He expressed concern that this might cause her husband to withhold a get. Nonetheless, charges were filed and a temporary restraining order was granted. We will spare you all the details, but it is important to note that the other family tried to extort a very significant sum from our family to grant a get and civil divorce. We were told by the other side that obtaining the get would not be a quick process.
The Beit Din was contacted and two hazmanas (summons) were served. No get was forthcoming. The Beit Din then assumed a negotiating role. In lieu of the third hazmana which would have rendered the husband a seruv with all of the ensuing ramifications and consequences, the Beit Din chose to try to mediate a settlement. Please be aware that the Halachic Prenup has three options for Beit Din engagement in the case of a halachic divorce. At the time of signing the Halachic Prenup, the couple can choose the areas of Beit Din involvement and adjudication. The areas are: get attainment, monetary settlement and child custody issues. Our daughter and her husband only checked off the first box requiring the Beit Din to get involved to make sure a get was issued. Thank God there were no children.
The Beit Din successfully secured a get on behalf of our daughter and for that we are grateful. However, they were hesitant to invoke the third hazmana and seruv process despite our desire to move forward in a timely way. In exchange for receiving the get, our daughter was pressured to relinquish her rights to pursue domestic violence charges in civil court (wrongful imprisonment and a final restraining order) and she was required to pay her husband thousands of dollars at the get ceremony (albeit a reduced amount from the initial demand).
Couples getting married, and their parents, need to understand the Halachic Prenup. It is a great first step, but there is a lot more that needs to be done to create true halachic justice. In our case, even though the prenup says the husband owes the wife $150 a day and the value of the ketubah, our daughter never received that money. Her husband never received a third hazmana and therefore was never formally called a seruv. Instead, she paid.
The halachic prenup needs to be invoked and implemented to protect those for whom it was created. It may ultimately need to be tweaked to be more effective. The prenup is necessary but perhaps not yet sufficient. RCA officiating rabbis who insist upon couples signing the Halachic Prenup need to take an active role in working with the Beit Din to secure an unconditional get should it become necessary.
In our daughter’s case, YES she did obtain her get, thank God, but was pressured to give up quite a lot to obtain her freedom. Get refusal is absolutely a form of domestic abuse!!! Thank you, ORA, for all you do to help free women who are agunahs and ensuring they receive a get and their freedom.Names Withheld by Editor