A Legal Divorce and a Jewish Divorce Are Entirely Different Things


When a marriage breaks down, we face the challenge of what to do about it. Options like a trial separation rarely work in real life because it lets both partners begin to create a new life apart which they’re then unlikely to want to give up and return to what was an unhappy marriage. However, in the Jewish faith, marriage is perhaps taken more seriously than in other religions.

Seeking a legal divorce through the court system in California and being granted a divorce decree is entirely different to a Jewish Divorce. Here we cover a few basics around this topic.

Divorce is Different in Each State

Divorce is covered under family-related laws in each state. Because of this, a divorce lawyer can assist you in determining if you have been residing in the state long enough (usually six months or longer) and in the county (typically three months or longer) in order to begin divorce proceedings.

In the case of California, the California Family Code 2300 is at pains to clearly state what a dissolution or divorce is and is not. Put simply, it returns both people to being unmarried individuals once the divorce is complete.

Waiting Period?

Depending on the state, there can be a waiting period between the date when a divorce petition is created, a summons served on the person who hasn’t filed for divorce, and when the divorce can be finalized. In the case of California, the waiting period is confirmed by California Family Code 2339 as being six months. Sometimes a first court appearance is used as the initial date.

Because of the rulings in most states, it’s not possible to divorce as quickly and get it finalized as soon as one might prefer. It all depends on the state and county that you’re residing in and how long you’ve been there.

Is the State a ‘No Fault’ One?

For states that follow the no-fault rule, the court doesn’t look at the testimony and court submissions to determine who is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. As such, there could be infidelity by either party and this would not sway the court’s decision to grant a divorce. This is why it’s common to see the reason for a divorce being stated as “irreconcilable differences” because in a no-fault state it doesn’t technically matter what the reason is for the purpose of gaining a decision from the judge on the divorce status.

A Divorce in Court Isn’t a Jewish Divorce

The legal standpoint and the family law standpoint are entirely different. A divorce may have been approved by the judge, but even with a divorce decree in hand, the couple may still be married in the eyes of the Jewish religion. The reason is that the husband has to agree to grant a divorce to his wife under the Orthodox Jewish faith.

How does this affect her? Certainly, even with a divorce finalized in a family court, without being granted a divorce by her husband, the wife will not be permitted to re-marry. The same is true of the husband too, though there are some curious exceptions which have caused some recent controversy.

Divorce is a complicated subject. It’s best to seek appropriate counsel both from a professional attorney that specializes in family law and from your Rabbi too. In this way, you’ll be able to avoid any obvious barriers and achieve the result you want.

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