In the United States, there is a firm commitment to keeping religion out of its legislative affairs. All religious issues are generally tempered by standards that the Supreme Court has set to help balance religious ideas against secular interests. However, in situations of the family, where religion is closely tied to the concept of the family, the lines become more blurry. Divorce and religion, for example, are generally two concepts that are mutually exclusive, especially in the Judeo-Christian ideology. But where does religion and the law meet? How can the law be utilized in family issues arising in a religious home?
Jewish Divorce: The Getting of the Get
Recently, family law practitioners have been attempting to intervene in Jewish divorces. Though not necessarily encouraged in Judaism, the religion anticipates the possibility that divorce may be a necessity. Jewish marriages are commenced by a marriage contract, known as a ketubah, which defines the responsibilities of the husband to the wife. In the Jewish religion, a wife cannot independently divorce her husband; her husband must provide her with a get, which voids the marriage contract and releases the wife from the marriage. Though this has a similar foundation as the divorce procedures currently in place in the secular world, the difference is that there is no process in the Jewish world by which a wife may force her husband into providing her with a get, thus leaving her at the mercy of a potentially spiteful husband. Married women who are trapped within the marriage are known as agunot.