New York – Hoping to eliminate devastating difficulties in the divorce process, the Rabbinical Council of America has passed a resolution requiring all of its member rabbis to require the use of a halachic prenuptial agreements when they officiate at weddings.
The resolution was adopted Thursday by the membership of the RCA and was designed to prevent potential problems in cases where one spouse will not give or accept a get.
“We have seen over and over again that the existence of a halachic prenup dramatically changes the dynamics of contentious divorce cases and eliminates the risk that the get will be improperly used as a tool for leverage or extortion,” said Rabbi Shlomo Weissman, director of the Beth Din of America.
According to RCA president Rabbi Shalom Baum, having a prenuptial agreement in place has been an effective means to ensure that a get is issued and accepted in a timely and unconditional matter. Making a halachic prenuptial agreement as mandatory as a kesuba to the marriage process will also eliminate any possible stigma or discomfort of asking a potential spouse to sign the legal agreement.
Rabbi Mordechai Willig, a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary and deputy av beis din at the Beth Din of America, drafted a halachic prenuptial agreement in 1993 in consultation with both legal and halachic experts in 1993. That prenuptial agreement is widely used but RCA members are free to use any halachic prenuptial agreement that is endorsed by their rabbinical authorities.
Making a halachic prenuptial agreement part of the marriage process shifts the focus of the document from the couple to the rabbi and his professional standards, explained Rabbi Baum.
“Supporting members of the community and relieving their distress are among the top priorities of rabbis,” observed Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the RCA. “If the definition of a religious scholar is one who increases peace in the world (Berachot 64a), then rabbis must certainly step into the forefront when use of halachically acceptable tools are available to prevent the abuse of the vulnerable. Otherwise, we forfeit our claim to the title ‘rabbi.’”
The RCA is planning several initiatives that will help rabbis and community members better understand and implement the signing of prenuptial agreements.