Although the dire possibility of divorce is an unpleasant intrusion into the great joy of a wedding, signing a prenuptial agreement deserves consideration. The prenuptial agreement is an agreement signed by the couple before the wedding, which seeks to minimize the potential risks in the unhappy event that their marriage ends in divorce. Jewish tradition considers the creation of a family a central social-religious value and not just a casual arrangement. Hence the contractual document for terminating a Jewish marriage, the get, requires the agreement of both parties. Unfortunately, the get has become a tool for expressing anger and revenge and is a weapon in the hands of the one member of the couple who refuses to grant or receive the get and thus locks in (‘anchors‘) the other party. Such anchoring is especially problematic for a woman since it prevents her remarriage. Her ‘biological clock’ keeps ticking, and any children born out of wedlock will be considered mamzerim, and forbidden in marriage to anyone but other mamzerim or converts.
The first prenuptial agreements, written in the 19th century in Germany and Morocco, sought to grapple with this ‘anchoring’ of the wife or husband, by gaining the prior consent of the couple to certain conditions, at a time when they still are in love and are looking out for each other’s best interests. This agreement cannot include a commitment to give and receive a divorce (if so desired by the other partner) since this would impinge upon the requisite voluntary nature of the divorce. What it does instead, is to obligate the couple to certain conditions in the event of the breakup of the marriage, such as counseling, court attendance at divorce proceedings, and heavy fines for each day for which a divorce is withheld. The prenuptial agreement also seeks to prevent excessive fighting and legal battles over the division of property in the case of divorce. Currently in Israel, there is no legal requirement to sign a prenuptial agreement, but there are various versions, which are becoming more and more accepted across all sectors of the society as well as by rabbis. In addition to these agreements, there are various financial agreements for similar situations; they may be signed in a civil or religious court. Prior to marriage, these documents are considered legally binding as long as they are signed before a notary or the marriage registrar.
Take note: Before the wedding, you can sign the agreement in front of a notary or marriage registrar in order to validate it. Signing the agreement in front of the officiating rabbi will not validate it.
The office of Religious Affairs ruled that the marriage registrar is required to validate the agreement if asked by the couple to do so. If a marriage registrar refuses to sign your agreement, please contact ITIM for assistance.
The Agreement for Mutual Respect: A Prenuptial Agreement for the Prevention of Get-Refusal | For different Hebrew versions of the prenuptial agreement