Jewish Divorce Explained in England and Wales

10 December 2019

A Jewish wedding ceremony conducted in England or Wales will be recognised under the law of England and Wales, providing all civil requirements are met. In order for a couple to be fully divorced though, they may need to complete civil divorce proceedings alongside a religious divorce.

Other religious ceremonies that are legally recognised in England and Wales include those that conform to the rites of Church of England or the Society of Friends (commonly called Quakers).

It is key to note, however, that there are some civil requirements that will need to be met to enable these ceremonies to be recognised. What this means is that the couple will not need to conduct a separate civil ceremony in order for the marriage to be legally binding.

Jewish Divorce Explained

The traditional name of Jewish divorce is a 'Get'. This is normally done through an application being made to the Beth Din. The process usually requires the husband to file for a Get, and then requires the wife's agreement to the Get proceedings. A Get will sever the Jewish marriage and mean that either spouse is then free to enter into a new Jewish marriage.

Whilst the Get proceedings are ongoing, either spouse can apply to the Court to start civil divorce proceedings. The civil divorce process will end the marriage between the couple under the law of England and Wales, and this will also deal with the distribution of matrimonial property according to English Matrimonial Law.

Civil Divorce in England and Wales

When it comes to the civil divorce process, this will be exactly the same as it is for any other divorcing couple in England and Wales. The only difference is that the couple may also undertake a separate application for a Get.

Civil divorce proceedings can be started by either spouse submitting a Divorce Petition to the Court. This is the document that triggers the start of civil divorce proceedings and the person who submits this is called the Petitioner. The Divorce Petition needs to contain details of the marriage and of both of the spouses. It also needs to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, giving a reason for this breakdown.

Under the law of England and Wales, the breakdown of a marriage must be attributed to one of five legally recognised reasons for divorce. These are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation (with consent)
  • Five years separation

Once the divorce petition has been submitted to the Court, it will be processed and sent on to the other spouse (the Respondent). The Respondent then has an opportunity to agree to the divorce proceedings or to contest the divorce. They need to complete a document called an Acknowledgement of Service stating whether or not they agree to the divorce.

Once the Acknowledgement of Service has been received, the Court will forward this to the Petitioner, who is then able to apply for the Decree Nisi. After this document is issued, the Petitioner needs to wait six weeks and one day until they can apply for the Decree Absolute. This is the final decree in a divorce and will legally end the marriage.

Legislation has now been introduced to enable a person who is married under Judaism to be able to stop the other spouse from obtaining the Decree Absolute unless they obtain a Get first.

It's important to note, however, that financial ties between the couple will not be fully severed unless a Financial Order, such as a Clean Break Order, is also put in place. This means that one spouse could make a financial claim against the other in the future unless this additional measure is taken. It is normally recommended the Decree Absolute is not applied for before a Financial Order has been made by the Court.

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