The Halachic Prenup
What is it?
The halachic prenuptial agreement is a legal agreement which goes into effect in the event of a contested Jewish divorce, and is an effective tool for preventing get abuse.
What is get abuse?
In Jewish law, when a couple divorces, the husband must willingly grant his wife a get (divorce document) and she must willingly receive it. In some cases, a man may refuse to grant the get, trapping a woman in a defunct marriage and preventing her from moving on with her life. Such a woman is called an agunah, a “chained woman.” Get refusal is increasingly recognized as a form of abuse which is antithetical to Jewish law and tradition.
How does it work?
The ketubah, a central part of a Jewish wedding, outlines a husband’s obligation to support his wife in the event of divorce. But a ketubah is not enforceable in a civil court. The prenup allows for enforcement of the ketubah in cases of get refusal.
By signing the prenup, the couple agrees to appear before a specific beit din and follow its rulings about the get process. The prenup contains a financial disincentive to refusing the get: If a person fails to follow the beit din’s ruling, a financial obligation clause goes into effect, currently up to $150 per day ($54,750 per year). If a wife refuses to abide by the beit din’s ruling that she must accept a get from her husband, the contract is invalidated and the husband will not be bound by the support obligation in the prenup. The standard prenup can be accessed here.
A reciprocal version of the prenup also applies a financial disincentive to a wife who refuses to abide by the beit din’s decision regarding acceptance of the get. The reciprocal prenup can be accessed here.
Does my city/community have its own version of the prenup?
Maybe! Some communities have their own version of the prenup which gives the local beit din (instead of the Beth Din of America) jurisdiction over the contract. For example, the Chicago Beth Din Zedek offers its own prenup here. Check with your local Orthodox rabbi or beit din to see if this is an option in your community.
Is it halachically valid?
Yes. The halachic prenuptial agreement was developed by the Beth Din of America and is endorsed by prominent poskim including Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Rabbi Osher Weiss. The Rabbinical Council of America requires its member rabbis to use a halachic prenuptial agreement at all weddings they officiate.