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Civil, religious divorce often has different rules

Separation of church and state is one of the founding principles of the United States. One interesting way that keeping faith and law apart impacts people’s lives is in marital matters.

Many, if not most, weddings involve some sort of religious ritual or ceremony. Of course, despite the ceremony the marriage is not legally recognized unless the couple obtains a marriage certificate. In some states, marriages that might be recognized by some religious leaders might not be allowed by the state, and vice versa.

As in marriage, the couple’s religion, or lack of religion, is not a factor in receiving a divorce at the courthouse. But religious traditions differ when it comes to granting a divorce.

For example, in the Orthodox Jewish faith, a woman cannot get divorced unless her husband grants her a “get,” or written permission. Again, this does not affect the civil rights of Jewish women in the U.S., but it could affect her standing in the community and her ability to get married again in an Orthodox synagogue.

Sometimes, the husband declines to grant the get, which has given rise to cases where husbands are pressured by the community until they do so. Occasionally, violence is allegedly used. A federal trial is underway that accuses a rabbi and his son of directing or participating in beating of men to force them to accept religious divorce from their wives.

Whether or not to get divorced may be a matter of religious teachings for many people. But no matter your beliefs, you have certain protections and obligations under the law if you do file, which your divorce attorney can explain to you.

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