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A majority of New Jersey residents identify with a religion. For the religiously devout, a secular divorce can present a problem when an individual wants to thereafter remarry within their faith. Remarriage may not be simply a civil matter, but one with significant religious implications and obstacles. By way of context, many are now familiar with the recent trial in New Jersey of several NY/NJ rabbis who were ultimately convicted on charges of kidnapping and torturing Orthodox Jewish husbands who had refused to sign a Get (religious divorce decree). The rabbis sought to compel these reticent husbands to “voluntarily” give the Get, which would allow their former wives to remarry in the faith. Without the document, the women were deemed “agunah”, which is defined as chained women who are stuck in a dead marriage. The heavy handed tactics used by the rabbis evolved in the wake of a small percentage of Jewish husbands using the lopsided power inherent in the Get process to a) deny the wife the opportunity to move on with her life and b) often extort more favorable financial and custodial divorce settlement terms.
New Jersey courts have most recently found that ordering production of a Get stands in conflict with First Amendment principles, and, thus, cannot be compelled. Other states have found the acquisition of the Get to be a non-religious act, thus avoiding issues of First Amendment violations, and have compelled its production.