The principle of separation of church and state affects many aspects of United States law, including family law. For example, a marriage ceremony in a church, temple, or mosque is not enough to render a couple legally married under United States law; they must also obtain a marriage license and marriage certificate from the court in the state in which they reside. (Some states will issue marriage licenses to out-of-state couples, but others have a residency requirement.) Likewise, when it comes to divorce, civil proceedings and religious proceedings are independent of each other. In Judaism, a marriage is officially considered dissolved when the husband issues the wife a document called a Get, which proclaims that the parties are free to remarry.
How Does a Get Work in Theory and in Practice?
A Get is a short document, consisting of only 12 lines, always written in the presence of a rabbi and signed by witnesses. It declares that the marriage has been dissolved, and that the former spouses may enter into new marriages. Unlike a civil divorce decree, it does not contain any details about division of property or child custody.
According to Jewish law, a woman cannot enter a new valid marriage until her previous marriage has been dissolved by the issuance of a Get. If she has children with her new husband, they are not automatically acknowledged as members of the Jewish community and would need to go through a conversion process in order to marry within the faith. Continue reading