While traditional prenuptial agreements provide for a division of assets or financial support in the case of divorce, the agreement proposed by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and the Melbourne Beth Din will ensure that husbands, in particular, are compelled to give their wives a gett (Jewish divorce) should the marriage fail.
In the Jewish year 5766-5767, 39 Melbourne couples approached the beth din for a gett. This year, the number has risen to 52, which is a worrying statistic for the rabbinic community.
Sydney’s Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence added it was “upsetting” that the Sydney Beth Din deals with an average of one gett each week.
While most Victorian Jewish marriages end without excessive trauma, there are still a number of agunot -– women whose husbands refuse them a gett and who, therefore, cannot remarry.
The situation is similar in NSW, where Rabbi Lawrence said they are considering two options -– prenuptials or a post-marriage settlement that encourages the husband to come to the beth din to deal with messy Jewish divorces.
Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, president of the RCV, said in an effort to overcome the problem, he had enlisted retired Family Court judge Justice Joseph Kaye and family lawyer Andrew Strum to discuss the feasibility of a program and to help draft a document, which will need to be tested from a civil and religious perspective.
“Halachically and legally, there is room for this,” Rabbi Kluwgant said.
“Not many things anger me, but it angers me when a partner uses a gett to hurt their spouse.”
The rabbi said he understands that young couples about to embark on a married life will hesitate to sign a prenuptial agreement.
Rabbi Lawrence shared the concern about prenuptials arrangements, but said he still supported the idea.
“A lot of couples are reluctant to contemplate the concept that they will fall out of love,” he said.
He added that the idea of encouraging husbands to go to the beth din as part of the divorce settlement would also help prevent agunot.
“It is the catch-all,” he said. “If a prenuptial hasn’t been signed or if a rabbi hasn’t gone along with it, then this can be a solution.”