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Sunday, 19 August 2007

Marriage contract brings hope to women

Marriage contract brings hope to women
Dear bride-to-be, afraid you might remain an aguna or victim of a
get-refusal? Sign the prenuptial 'Contract for Just and Fair Marriage'
Rivkah Lubitch
Published: 08.08.07, 12:06 / Israel Jewish Scene

Last week, a young student who came to talk to me about marriage and
divorce issues left my office smiling and happy. "Now, I am calm," she
said at the door. "I am going to sign up for marriage at the rabbinate."
Only one hour before, she told me, quite embarrassed, "I am about to get
married in two months, but I have not even opened a file at the
rabbinate. I am writing a paper for university that made me despondent.
I am not sure I want to marry at the rabbinate."
I managed to ease her mind when I showed her the new and abridged
Contract for Just and Fair Marriage of the Center for Women's Justice,
which is made up of two parts. The first part is designed to ameliorate
the problem of get refusal; and the second part is meant to prevent the
problem of aginut (when a husband has abandoned his wife or is
incapacitated and unable to give her a get).
The contract is actually a condensed version of two different prenuptial
agreements that were put together on a single paper: that of the late
Prof Rozen-Zvi regarding get-refusal, and the main points of the
Tripartate Agreement written by US Rabbi Broyde that would thwart aginut
(for purposes of clarification: Rabbi Broyde did not approve of our
condensed version).
This new contract is user-friendly and has only four clauses, the first
three of which are quite similar to other prenuptial agreements on the
market. The first clause maintains that each party may demand the
distribution of marital property prior to the delivery of the get; the
second clause states that the party that refuses to give or accept the
get will pay increased spousal support to the requesting party; the
third clause in the agreement explicitly says that all disputed
divorce-related issues shall be addressed by a family court. There's a
place under these clauses where the bride and groom are supposed to sign
in the presence of a notary or marriage registrar. These clauses are
valid under Israeli law , and they could be enforced by a family court
and the execution office, if, God forbid, the couple should come to that.
It is the fourth clause that is new and daring. In it, the couple
declares that: their marriage will hold for as long as they do not
separate for more than 18 consecutive months;that they agree to nullify
their marriage should they actually separate; and that the groom may
assign an agent to deliver the get.
These three points have been raised individually in Jewish sources at
various times as ways to solve the problem of agunot, but each solution
was rejected by our rabbis for a variety of reasons. The innovation of
the Contract for Just and Fair Marriage is that it combines the three
points together. This clause should be signed by the newlyweds before
two persons who would be valid witnesses under Jewish law .
The good news is that this last clause could resolve all the problems of
aginut and get-refusal put together because, from now on, the wife could
ask for and receive a get without citing any cause of action, against
the husband's will, and even in his absence. The bad news is that the
rabbinic judges do not as of yet accept this proposal as a legitimate
solution
We, on the other hand, are optimistic and believe that the good news is
better than the bad news is bad. We are certain that if more and more
people indeed sign the Contract for a Just and Fair Marriage, its
proposed solutions will slowly sink into the consciousness of those
rabbis who conduct marriages and divorces, and they will eventually
accept it. The first couple (both lawyers) signed the agreement a few
weeks ago, a second couple signed last week, and interest in it is
rising daily.
So, mazal tov to all the newlyweds, and do not forget to sign the
Contract for Just and Fair Marriage.
Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinical court pleader at the Center for Women's
Justice, tel: 02-566-4390

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