Category: Religious Divorces

Can You Lose Your Job in Divorce?

A court in Israel just ordered the nation’s largest commuter bus company to fire an employee because he refuses to divorce his wife. The company has 30-days to comply. Why would you lose your job for refusing to divorce? What if it is a religious divorce?

Religious Divorce

Divorce on One Foot

A Jewish couple from India, who have been married for over a decade, immigrated to Israel with their only child. The Husband has been accused of abusing his wife, and the situation worsened after they moved. Three years ago, the Wife filed for divorce, reconciled, and then renewed the religious divorce.

Israel’s divorce law is based on the Ottoman Empire’s old millet law. Unlike the United States, where divorces are handled by family courts, in Israel there are parallel courts involving divorce, the religious court and family court.

Additionally, divorce court may depend on which religious community you belong to because religious courts have jurisdiction of their own religious members. This means Muslims are divorced in Sharia courts, Christians divorce in ecclesiastical courts, and Jews divorce in Jewish courts.

In Judaism, religious law requires husbands to grant their wives a “get” – a Jewish bill of divorce to be a valid divorce. Ten months ago, a rabbinical court ordered the Husband to grant his Wife a divorce. But he refused, unless she waived her right to their joint property.

Florida Divorce and Religion

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce a few times. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are generally not considered in Florida divorces. Surprisingly for many, even when child custody is an issue, there are no specific statutory factors in determining custody on religious grounds.

Currently in Florida, child custody decisions are based in accordance with the best interests of the child.

As it relates to religion, Florida courts have decided that there must be a clear, affirmative showing that religious activities will be harmful to the child for religion to be a factor.

Egged On

The religious divorce court has imposed various financial sanctions on the Husband for refusing to divorce, including requiring him to pay his wife $410 a month as a sanction. But he still refuses to divorce her.

Last week, a panel of rabbinical judges granted the Wife’s request and ordered an Israeli bus company to fire the Husband within 30-days.

Yad L’Isha praised the decision. “Every creative solution like this gives great hope to other women that there are other ways to release them from the prison of their marriage”. Yad L’Isha is the world’s largest organization dedicated to helping women unable to obtain a Jewish divorce.

The Haaretz article is here.

Photo courtesy of Rickjpelleg


Getting a Religious Divorce

Just in time for the holidays is the problem of religious divorce. Many women are stuck in their former marriages because their secular divorce was not enough to allow them to remarry in their religion. This post looks at the problems and solutions for getting a religious divorce.

The Religious Problem

I’ve written about the issue of religious divorce many times. The religious nature of divorces for many couples, particularly for Muslim and Jewish women, complicates settlement.

That’s because religious courts have no enforcement authority in the United States, and the First Amendment of the Constitution prevents secular courts from intervening in purely religious disputes.

Also, religious authorities are very critical about the secular enforcement of divorce as it can contravene religious law. Among religious people, there’s also a reluctance on using secular courts against their coreligionists, which discourages people from getting help in state court.

Islamic Divorce

The Economist recently reported on Shirin Musa, and her bitter religious divorce experience which ultimately inspired her to help women caught between legal and cultural worlds.

A resident in the Netherlands, Shirin was unhappily married to a man from her native Pakistan. In 2009 a Dutch judge divorced them, but her husband would not grant an Islamic divorce.

Although she lived in secular Europe, her husband’s refusal to grant a religious divorce mattered. If she remarried without a religious divorce, she could be considered an adulteress under Islamic law. She also risked religious punishment if she ever tried to return to Pakistan.

So, Shirin sued her former spouse through the Dutch secular courts. In 2010 she received a landmark judgment: her ex-husband would be fined $295 a day, up to a maximum of $11,795 as long as he refused to cooperate.

The sanction had the desired effect on her ex-husband She then persuaded the Dutch parliament to make holding women in such “marital captivity” a criminal offence, in theory punishable by jail.

Jewish Divorce

Jewish women share a similar problem to Muslim women. Under the strict interpretations of Jewish law, only the husband can grant a divorce document, called a “get.” Without a get, the woman is still religiously married, regardless of how long it’s been since the civil divorce.

Without a get, a Jewish woman can’t remarry and have more children, lest she be declared an adulterer and her children from the second marriage shunned by the community.

Women in this situation can be trapped for years as their childbearing years fade away. In Hebrew, many call them agunot, or “chained women.”


First, you may want to secure a religious divorce before even filing a secular divorce. This prevents the husband from using the religious divorce as a bargaining chip.

Securing a religious divorce before filing a civil divorce also prevents another common problem: imams and rabbis stepping in to negotiate large cash payments in exchange for a religious divorce.

Another civil legal remedy is a prenuptial agreement. Under a prenuptial agreement, the spouses could agree to arbitrate the marital dispute, and the husband agrees to pay the wife a set amount per day until he grants a religious divorce.

The Economist article is available here.


Religion: Divorce or Stay Married?

A woman sued her divorce lawyers for negligence, claiming they failed to tell her finalizing her divorce would end her marriage. Crazy, right? It also places the issue of religion and divorce back in the news.

According to the U.K.’s Independent, the divorce malpractice case had already been rejected by the court, but was before a higher British court on appeal.

Jane Mulcahy had argued that the lawyers should have made it clear that a divorce would cause her marriage to be terminated – something which she apparently wanted to avoid.

The lawyers failed to regard her Roman Catholic faith, and should have recommended judicial separation – a step down from full divorce – as an alternative course of action, she said.

I’ve written about religion and divorces before. Each religion has its own requirements for completing a divorce. Although religion is not a factor Florida courts can consider in granting a divorce, for the parties, religion can be extremely important.

Islam has a waiting period. The Catholic Church has the Decree of Invalidity and other remedies so spouses are free to marry again. In Judaism, a husband must give his wife a “Get”.

To avoid problems such as the British woman’s Florida allows people to file for alimony and child support unconnected with dissolution.

In Florida, if a spouse has the ability to contribute to maintain and support the family, but fails to, the other spouse can apply to a court for alimony and for support for the child – without seeking a dissolution of marriage.

Many people are often unaware that there are serious consequences to ending your marriage (loss of health insurance and tax implications for example) and that you can’t simply annul your marriage the way you can divorce.

In the British case, Lord Justice Briggs said:

“The most striking of Mrs Mulcahy’s many allegations of negligence against her solicitors was that, having regard to her Roman Catholic faith, Mrs Boots had failed to give her the advice which was requisite in view of her firmly held belief in the sanctity of marriage…

The Independent article is here.

Will The Pope Allow Marriage After Divorce?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Religious Divorces on Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

If you divorce, can you re-marry? Catholic bishops are gathering at the Vatican for a Synod, and may change Church doctrine on offering Communion to divorced Catholics who remarry.

The Washington Post notes that the changing nature of relationships – from marriage to divorce, cohabitation and gay unions – will top the agenda at the global Synod and also figure prominently at next year’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

“We are going to deal with realistic issues,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told a media conference at the Vatican on Tuesday. “The issues of family life will be part of this.”

Pope Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, has expressed tolerance on a range of issues, famously asking “Who am I to judge?” about gay relationships.

In a worldwide survey earlier this year, bishops showed they were looking for new ways to deal with unmarried couples, divorced people and single parents disillusioned with the church, while opposing same-sex unions and abortion.

But for many Catholics, the question of Communion for the divorced remains the key issue and there is plenty of division even among conservatives.

While divorced Catholics, who have not remarried, are free to take Communion, divorced and remarried Catholics, in general, are forbidden from.

The only way around this problem is through it. Couples must go to a Marriage Tribunal, and if it’s determined that there never was a true marriage in the first place, and if there is repentance, permission may be granted to receive Communion again.

“The status quo is unacceptable. For the spiritual well-being of the divorced and remarried members of our Catholic family, for the salvation of their souls, we’ve got to do something!”

Religion often plays a big part of a civil divorce decision, as couples need to consider how to practice their faiths after a marriage is dissolved. The article can be read here.

Sharia in Florida Family Law Cases

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Religious Divorces on Monday, August 25, 2014.

Divorce cases sometimes involve foreign laws: laws from other U.S. states, other countries and even religions. Can this include Sharia, or does a new Florida law prevent arguing Sharia in court?

Here is an example of how it can come up in a case. A woman from Egypt claims she married her husband according to Islamic law. The man tries to dismiss her divorce, arguing there was no valid marriage.

These are high stakes. If a judge rules they were married, there will be a divorce and she could receive alimony and marital assets. If there was no marriage, then the woman could be left with nothing.

To make the ruling, the judge needs to know what Sharia says about what a legal marriage is. The judge will also need to hear from expert witnesses on Islamic law before making a decision.

But what if Florida judges were could not even consider Sharia law (and other foreign laws) in making the decision. That may very well be the future the Florida legislature would like.

I’ve written about this before. Earlier this spring, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill SB 386, which was approved by the Governor in May. Specifically, the bill prohibits courts in Florida from:

Basing a decision on a foreign law that does not grant the parties to litigation the same rights guaranteed by the Florida or U.S. Constitutions.

Enforcing a ‘choice of law’ clause in a contract which requires a dispute to be resolved under a foreign law that does not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by the Florida or U.S. Constitutions.

Enforcing a ‘forum selection’ clause in a contract which requires a dispute to be resolved in a forum in which a party would be denied his or her fundamental rights guaranteed by the State Constitution or the United States Constitution.

There are now 32 states which have considered some limits on the application of foreign law, either through legislation or ballot initiative.

The bill does not identify any law which would deny a person’s fundamental rights. So courts will likely determine the impact of the bill on a case-by-case basis.

Also, Florida’s bill does not mention Sharia. In fact, no religion is mentioned at all, so a challenge to the law requires application of the Lemon test, requiring both a secular government purpose and that the law does not facilitate excessive governmental entanglement with religion.

Senate Bill 386 can be read here.

Muslim Divorce Contracts in Florida

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Religious Divorces on Monday, April 7, 2014.

The Florida legislature re-introduced an anti-Sharia law bill this term. It is an effort to limit the applicability of foreign law in property division proceedings, especially contract provisions. However, some religious contract provisions have been enforced in Florida, and with good reason. This bill may stop that.

Consider the case in Kansas I mentioned before. Pursuant to Islamic customs, the Husband transferred over $116,000 in premarital funds to his bride, culminating in a Muslim marriage contract-signing ceremony. Then they traveled to Kansas, where a judge conducted a separate marriage ceremony.

Less than two years later, the Husband filed for divorce. The parties signed a mahr agreement and the Wife contends that because of the divorce, she gets the roughly $677,000 agreed to in the mahr from the husband.

However, Kansas passed a bill (similar to what Florida is considering) prohibiting courts from applying foreign law, legal codes or systems that violate the public policy of Kansas – a bill viewed as preventing courts from applying Shari’a law (although the bill doesn’t mention Sharia by name).

Similar to Florida, Kansas generally allows premarital agreements unless they violate public policy, or fails to provide adequate disclosure and is unconscionable.

However, the Kansas court decided not to enforce the mahr, and instead imposed as a property settlement that the ex-husband retains his premarital property after conferring the equivalent of $116,000 in gifts on the wife before the marriage.

The problems with the Muslim mahr agreement found by the court:

The provisions in the mahr would function as a penalty based on fault – since the mahr provides for fault-based payment – contrary to no-fault divorce principles.

The high amount of the divorce payout could be viewed as encouraging divorce, contrary to Kansas (and Florida) public policy.

The religious origins of the agreement are problematical. Mahr agreements stem from jurisdictions that do not separate church and state, creating a tension with our Constitution.

Mahr agreements can be short on operative details, definitions, and explicit requests to have their terms represent an entire remedy at law in a civil courtroom.

Mahr agreements might not meet the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act’s definition of a prenup.

Currently, in Florida, the issue of whether a Muslim prenuptial agreement is enforceable depends on whether it complies with Florida’s secular contract law. If so, secular terms may be enforceable as any contractual obligation.

The anti-Sharia bill is a hot-button issue again this year. Religiously motivated agreements should be interpreted as secular documents, if a court can use neutral principles without evaluating religious doctrine.

The Kansas case can be read here.

Shari’ah and Foreign Laws in a Florida Divorce

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Religious Divorces on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.

If you are in a divorce, and have religious divorce issues or foreign laws you must follow, can a Florida court uphold them? Last year the Florida Senate tried to restrict courts from applying foreign law to disputes relating to divorce. The ‘Anti-Shari’ah” bill died in the Senate by 1 vote. So can we now start divorcing under Sharia law? How about Jewish or Catholic rules?

As the Volokh Conspiracy recently posted, a New York court last week had to consider Saudi and Sharia law, and it turned out the world didn’t end:

In Standard Chartered Bank v. Ahmad Hamad AL Gosaibi and Bros. Co., 2014 WL 96219 (N.Y. trial ct. Jan. 10, 2014) the Defendants tried to quash a subpoena because compliance would expose them to civil and criminal penalties under Saudi Arabian law.

The plaintiffs countered that Saudi law and Shari’ah law actually obligated a Saudi debtor to fully disclose its assets to its creditors. So the disclosure was consistent with Saudi and Shari’ah law.

The New York court agreed with the plaintiff.

There are times when Sharia, and other religious or foreign laws, come up in a divorce. Sometimes contracts will stipulate a ‘choice of law’. For example, a prenuptial agreement may designate “New York” as the jurisdiction whose law governs disputes arising between the couple.

Other times, a foreign law or religious custom is highly probative, and relevant to a case, so a court will want to conduct a review of any foreign statutes, case law, or secondary sources, and will have to rely heavily on expert testimony. Consider the Standard Charter case above.

This can be good thing, and a restriction on using foreign, and especially Shari’ah law, in courts seems counterproductive. Our legal system has been around a while, and does a good job of dealing with foreign and religious issues.

Florida Statute Chapter 61 is not being replaced by the Bible, Torah or Quran anytime soon. But as the New York court shows, sometimes foreign laws and customs can shed light on a Florida court’s ability to resolve questions of fact and law.

Religious Divorces . . . electric cattle prods not recommended

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Religious Divorces on Monday, October 14, 2013.

Each religion has its own requirements for completing a divorce. Islam has a waiting period. The Catholic Church has the Decree of Invalidity and other remedies so spouses are free to marry again. In Judaism, a husband must give his wife a “Get”. But if a stubborn husband won’t provide one, there may or may not be civil remedies in Florida courts. If there isn’t though, can you kidnap and use an electric cattle prod to coerce a husband into signing a Get? That’s a question now being answered in a U.S. District Court in New Jersey.

As the New York Daily News Reports:

Two rabbis plotted to kidnap Jewish husbands, torture them with electric cattle prods and force them to grant their desperate wives religious divorces, the feds charged Thursday. Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 68, of Brooklyn and Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 55, of Monsey, Rockland County, were among 10 people arrested in the barbarous scheme with tentacles that ran all the way to the rabbinical court. Epstein is accused of running an unholy crew that charged women trapped in marital limbo $70,000 to $100,000 to strong-arm their stubborn husbands into granting a Jewish divorce known as a “get,” a criminal complaint reveals.

According to reports, the police also arrested two other men – Ariel Potash whose role was to act as the wife’s agent to accept the get in the religious divorce ceremony, and a man identified only as “Yaakov” who was apparently one of the “toughs.”

The criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney paints a gruesome picture:

We prefer not to leave a mark,” Epstein allegedly told the undercover agent. “Basically the reaction of the police is, if the guy does not have a mark on him then, uh, is there some Jewish crazy affair here. They don’t want to get involved.”

Bad advice. The arrests came after two undercover FBI agents – one posing as a wife and the other as her brother – were charged $10,000 for approval by a rabbinical court of a kidnapping and $50,000 to $60,000 to pay those who roughed up the purported husband.

A rabbinical court in Monsey, New York, presided over by Rabbi Wolmark, actually approved the kidnapping plan last week by issuing a ruling (psak din) after the purported husband failed to respond to a contempt order (seruv) issued by the religious court.