Rav Sternbuch – GET Deposited if Wife in Court

Rav Sternbuch (4:301): Question: I received a question from America where –  due to our many sins – it is common that women rebel against their husbands and afterwards go to secular courts – Gd forbid! The secular court makes a judgment in her favor – through coercion and not in accord with the law of the Torah. The judgment  obligates the husband to pay very high support payments and carries a penalty of prison for failure to comply. In addition she is typically awarded custody of the children. The husband is asking for a heter of meah rabbonim to be able to remarry without giving her a get since she is a moredes and has transgressed the religious laws. On the other hand she claims that the heter of meah rabbonim is not relevant since she in fact is willing to accept the get. She also claims that there are rabbis who support her position. So she wants to benefit twice by obtaining a get according to the Torah and also a judgment from civil court which steals money from from her husband even after the get.
 Answer: In my humble opinion there is no validity to her claims and therefore the husband should be given a heter so he can marry another woman. The only limitation is that he needs to deposit the get with beis din as is the established practice. The reason for this is complex. 1) first of all since they are coercing him financially not in accord with the halacha regarding the support payments which are much higher than the halacha – that constitutes theft. Thus the get itself is a forced get. The gedolei poskim are worried about get me’usa. Thus the get is not actually valid and we have the problem that she is still a married woman who thinks she can remarry. Therefore it is necessary to exempt him from all financial obligations that were done against his will in order that the get itself be valid. Furthermore if the wife refuses to go to beis din, then that itself gives her the halachic status of moredes as is clear from Divrei Chaim (E.H. 51) and he cites the Chavas Daas who ruled that a woman who refused to go to beis din  was a moredes and the gedolim agreed with him. … According to this if she goes with him  only to beis din then he is obligated to give her a get. However when she goes to secular court in addition to make monetary claims – she is not able hold on to both sides. In other words she can’t go to the secular court with monetary claims and at the same demand that he give her a get in beis din. If she forces him to accept the rulings of the secular court in marriage matters he has no obligation to give her a get. We need to state in addition that the essence of the Decree of Rabbeinu Gershom was for the benefit of the wife.  However this benefit is only available when she doesn’t abrogate her halachic obligations. But in the present case she has created serious devastation in the marriage in that she has rebelled against him and went to secular court where she received excessive judgements concerning maintenance and also the custody of the children. Her husband must give her a get in beis din so that she can remarry. So in the case of moredes the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom which was meant to benefit women was not intended and the husband can remarry with the heter of 100 Rabbis and he deposits the get with beis din until the judgment of the secular court is nullified. When that happens- if he has not yet remarried – then it is prohibited for him to do so until he gives his first wife a get.
In reality your question is a local issue of America and it is the job of American rabbis to decide. However my view is in agreement with the rabbis there who permit the husband to remarry without any difficulty and he needs to deposit a get with beis din. But when the judgment of the secular courts has been nullified then it is prohibited for the husband to remarry until he has properly divorced the first wife.
You should be aware that we are obligated to fight against her going to secular courts and we prevent her from remarrying if she does and if the get is given under these circumstances there is a suspicion that it was coerced (me’usa). Nevertheless in a case where she claims she can’t stand him (ma’us alei) and there is no reason to believe they can be reconciled and the man is simply being cruel to her and is being spiteful by not to giving her a divorce – then even though it is prohibited for us to exert any force- G-d forbid! – nevertheless it is correct to notify the husband that the view of many of the gedolim (e.g., Rambam, Ravad, Behag, Rashbam, Rashi etc) is that he is sinning and they would encourage him to give her a get. Because even these poskim are concerned about creating [an invalid get] which would leave her as a married woman even bedieved – so G-d forbid that we should use any type of coercion. Regarding the issue of tormenting her and leaving her an aguna – it is correct for him to be concerned for her claim that she finds him revolting (ma’os alei) and it is prohibited for him to leave her as an aguna – even if she is not correct. But we are not to coerce him G-d forbid with any type of coercion that would possibly bring about a get me’usa. Rather [once we have informed him that it is wrong for him to withhold the get] he needs to come the the realization himself that he must conduct himself like a descendant of Avraham and the verse says that the ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace and that he will find happiness with someone else.
All of this we need to explain to the husband. That leaving her as an aguna is a transgression of a severe sin of onas  devarim – not to torment his wife. That refusing to divorce her serves no purpose except to get revenge against her. He doesn’t want to live with her and he shouldn’t think her life is worthless and he should be fully aware that in Heaven there is judgment and there is a Judge. He should also be informed that to many of the early gedolim it is correct even to force him to divorce. Unfortunately there are many beis dins that when they see that the husband doesn’t want to divorce his wife they simply remain silent. But that is not acceptable. They must inform him that he is unjustifiably tormenting her and this is not correct. This of course is assuming that the beis din is convinced that there is no hope for reconciliation….
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