Secular and Religious Divorce Laws Clash


Divorce lawyers in Pasadena sometimes see civil divorces affected by religious laws. Aharon Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, saw his religious decision to not grant his wife a divorce become scrutinized in the secular world. If you are wondering how a person can refuse to grant a divorce, in this case the answer to your query can only be found under religious rules of the Jewish Orthodoxy, and not under secular laws of the land.

In Jewish Orthodoxy, only the husband may grant what is called a "get", a Jewish decree of divorce. Friedman and his wife, Tamar Epstein, have already been civilly divorced and civil courts have granted shared custody of their daughter. However, under Jewish law the couple remains married, making Ms. Epstein an agunah, or chained woman. Neither she nor Mr. Friedman could remarry under Jewish law unless he grants Epstein a get. These disputes are frequently resolved with the help of the religious community, but when they aren't, it can lead to a mix of secular divorce laws spilling into the religious dispute.

Mr. Friedman is angry about the custody deal granted in civil court, and that appears to be his reason for not granting the get, tying the religious matter up with the secular outcome of his divorce. Ms. Epstein and her supporters have responded by taking the matter beyond the religious community and out into the secular community. In fact, a rally was organized outside Friedman's apartment, videos appeared on the Internet and a news article was printed, titled "Unchain This Woman".

Ms. Epstein's supporters do not feel that this is just a religious matter, but a matter for the public at large. The secular tactics did not end with the rally, the Internet, and the news article. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfield, a supporter of Ms. Epstein, wrote to the Ways and Means Committee, the powerful committee of the US House of Representatives, to see if they could help. However, Jon Traub, the Republican staff director of the committee informed the rabbi that the issue was not a matter for the Ways and Means Committee.

Ms. Epstein, like many people going through a divorce, just wants to move on with her religious as well as her secular life. For her, however, it is a matter not only for civil divorce proceedings. The religious aspect of her divorce is yet to be settled.