State Court Says Orthodox Jewish Prenup Is Constitutional: Husband Must Give Get

We’re a little late getting to this, but the Jewish Daily Forward reports on a recent Connecticut trial court’s decision to enforce a prenuptial agreement that requires a husband to grant his wife a religious divorce under Jewish law. The prenup between two Orthodox Jews, Rachel and Eben Light, provides that, in the event the couple divorce, Eben must give Rachel a get, or ritual document recognizing the divorce in Jewish law. In fact, the prenup has a liquidated damages clause: for each day Eben refuses to give the get, he must pay Rachel $100 in damages. As of today, the damages may exceed $100,000.

The Connecticut court held that the prenup does not violate the Religion Clauses. Although there have been other cases enforcing Jewish prenups, this is apparently the first recorded case in which this particular prenup, drawn up by the Beth Din of America, a major Jewish-law arbitration tribunal,  has been enforced in the civil courts. The decision will be appealed. 

One response

  1. Just to clarify — the court is not requiring the husband to give the religious divorce. He is requiring the husband pay the money he agreed to pay in a pre-nuptial agreement — $100.00 per day for every day the couple does not share a residence. Due to individual religious freedom — highly valued by American Jews — it is highly questionable for a secular American court to legally force someone to engage in a religious ritual. For this reason, the prenuptial agreement does not require the husband to give a get — it simply requires him to pay a significant penalty if he fails to do so. Paying a penalty for failure to live up to one’s signed agreements is something that is well within the secular court’s jurisdiction and in this case, the CT judge did not treat these terms any differently than any other prenuptial agreement.

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