Family law touches issues which cannot be limited to secular life.
For Jewish people, religion and culture pervades every aspect of daily life. The family is central to this.
This is the case regardless of whether a family subscribes to Orthodox, Reform, Masorti, Liberal or any other branch of Judaism.
If you are Jewish, our specialist Family Lawyers will help you navigate your legal needs with awareness of, and sensitivity to, the cultural and religious issues you may face.
Jewish Marriage and Pre-nuptial Agreements
Judaism is one of few religions in England & Wales where a religious wedding ceremony is recognised as a legal marriage. An entirely separate ceremony may not be needed, but you’ll still need to meet any civil formalities. This will make sure your marriage is legally recognised and allow you both to enjoy the benefits and protections that the secular law provides to a married couple. If you are engaged to be married, it is important that you speak to your Rabbi about this. If in doubt, also take advice from your local Registry Office.
If you are due to be married, you may benefit from a pre-nuptial agreement or your future spouse may have asked you to consider one. Our specialist Family Lawyers can help prepare an agreement that meets the expectations of the civil Court whilst being mindful of your faith.
We are conscious that many people may not consider a pre-nuptial agreement in the lead up to your simcha. We understand it is a time for celebration and optimism. But, Jewish divorces sometimes happen. A pre-nuptial agreement can provide certainty and peace of mind for both parties, financially and religiously. It may be, for example, that your agreement defines the manner in which a “Get” will be obtained in the event of a future separation and how any associated costs shall be treated.
It is important to understand that a Jewish divorce does not automatically trigger a civil divorce and vice versa.
If your marriage has broken down, our specialist family team can help you move on. We know that “moving on” for Jewish people will not stop at the legal and financial issues the civil Court will assist with. You will also need to move on religiously.
A Jewish divorce is called a “Get”. This is obtained when given by a husband to his wife, consensually and free of any coercion. It is obtained under the supervision of the Beth Din (the Jewish religious Court). The Beth Din will be the first port of call to help with any religious disputes.
Our specialist Lawyers are here to support you whilst you navigate this process, alongside the civil aspects of your case. It may be that we can help you negotiate the costs associated with the Get. Refusal to provide, or consent to, a Get may be relevant within related Family Law proceedings. For example it could be considered in cases involving domestic abuse, child arrangements or, in some circumstances, financial aspects of divorce. You should always feel welcome to speak to us about this.
In Family Law, no two children are treated the same. When disputes happen about a child’s circumstances, the Court must consider the needs of that particular child.
We know the importance that the faith, education, culture and community for a Jewish child be considered. We know there may be anxiety around making sure that the complexities of the Jewish community and Jewish faith are conveyed to a secular Court. The Court must understand a child’s “world” and the significance of it to that child’s welfare. Our specialist Children Lawyers can help you express this, where appropriate.
Children disputes are not straightforward and there are a number of crucial areas where they could happen in the context of a Jewish family.
Jewish parents may wish to become more or less religious and the other parent may not agree with the impact that this may have upon the children.
Jewish parents may disagree about a child’s religious or secular education or on Kashrut.
Jewish parents may disagree about where and with whom a child should spend Shabbat or the religious festivals: often such child-centric celebrations.
These are important disputes that may require a specialist Children Lawyer. The Family Court has a number of measures which could help to resolve these disputes. These include:
- Child Arrangements Orders – which sets out the times and circumstances in which a child will live or spend time with a parent or other care giver, for example during term time or during religious festivals
- Specific Issue Order – which determines a particular issue upon which parents cannot agree, such as certain aspects of education or religious practice
- Prohibited Steps Orders – which prevents a parent taking certain actions, for example changing a child’s school or conducting activities which may contravene the laws or spirit of Shabbat or religious festivals.
If you need advice on any of these issues, get in touch with one of our Family Law team who can help you.
Our expert Solicitors are experienced in helping Jewish families resolve their Family Law issues. We understand it is important the process works for you and your children, and importantly, remains in keeping with your observance. This can create practical issues that need to be carefully navigated.
We know how important it is to make sure Court hearings do not fall over festivals or Shabbat. If you are shomer negiah, you may wish for accommodations to be made to make sure there is a physical distance with members of the opposite sex within the Court room.
Attending the Family Court can be a daunting process for anybody, let alone whilst navigating these practicalities. We always aim to guide you through the process whilst meeting your practical religious needs.
Key Jewish Family Law Terms
This is a Jewish marriage certificate.
A Get is the decree of Jewish divorce. A Get must be written by a specialist scribe (a “sofer”) and presided over by the Beth Din.
- Beth Din
The Beth Din is the Rabbinical Court. The Beth Din presides over a number of issues, including conversions to Judaism and Jewish family law matters including divorce.
Agunah is the term given to a married woman whose spouse does not agree to give her a Get. Whilst she can seek a remedy through the secular Family Court, it means that she will not be religiously divorced and unable to remarry within the Orthodox Jewish community.
This is a status given to children within Orthodox Jewish communities when they have been born to an Agunah outside of their Jewish marriage (amongst other circumstances).
There are implications for mamzerim as to their ability to marry Orthodox Jewish people themselves and this emphasises the importance of obtaining a Get for Jewish spouses.
- Mesarev Get
This is the term given to a man who refuses to provide a Get. Whilst there is no power to compel a husband to give his wife a Get, there are a host of pressure mechanisms available to both the Beth Din and the secular Courts.
- The Beth Din has a formal process to deal with Get refusal. The Beth Din can advertise the refusal to grant a Get, it can impact the Mesarev’s synagogue membership, burial rights and ability to receive an Aliya (the calling up to perform rituals or read from the Torah in synagogue).
- In England & Wales, controlling and coercive behaviour within an intimate or family relationship is considered domestic abuse and is a crime. In 2020, there was a landmark case before the Criminal Court in which a husband was prosecuted for this crime, arising out of his refusal to provide his wife a Get. Whilst the prosecution was not taken to trial, the husband did eventually provide his wife a Get. Therefore, the risk of criminal sanctions may be a powerful tool to address this issue.
For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors
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Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Bristol, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.