Thursday, September 21, 2017

New York—A recently published study found a higher level of marital satisfaction among Orthodox Jews who signed a religious prenuptial agreement. It also found that signing an agreement was not associated with potential concerns; there was no greater tendency among signees to have a difficult adjustment to marriage or to consider divorce.

The study, conducted at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and supported by the Beth Din of America, compared marital satisfaction, marital adjustment and consideration of divorce among individuals who signed or did not sign the agreement that facilitates a women’s future ability to receive a religious divorce from her husband.

The findings indicated a higher level of marital satisfaction among those who signed the religious prenuptial agreement, and no significant difference in marital adjustment or tendency to consider divorce between groups of individuals who signed or did not sign the agreement. These findings were not found to be linked to any demographic variables such as age, length of marriage, education level, income, structure of family of origin or specific affiliation within Orthodox Judaism.

The study was published online on March 21, 2017 in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

The report is groundbreaking in its examination of the association between religious prenuptial agreements and marital outcomes within the Orthodox Jewish community.

“We recognize the meaning that these findings on marital outcomes may have to Orthodox Jews who are considering signing a religious prenuptial agreement,” said Dr. Chani Maybruch, the lead researcher and author, who is a relationship educator and coach at The Relationship Couple, LLC, in Passaic, New Jersey.

The religious prenuptial agreement in the study was designed in the 1990s by Rabbi Mordechai Willig at the Beth Din of America (BDA; lit. House of Justice of America), a prominent Orthodox religious court. According to Jewish law, in order to dissolve a marriage, a husband must present a Jewish bill of divorce, known as a “get” in Hebrew, to the wife. Unfortunately, despite the functional end of the marriage and the finalization of a civil divorce, a husband sometimes withholds a get to prevent the dissolution of the marriage according to Jewish law, making his wife unable to remarry indefinitely. The religious prenuptial agreement was designed to provide a clear incentive for a husband to give a religious divorce to his wife at an early point in the divorce process. It specifies that a husband must pay his wife a specified sum of money based on the length of time he refuses to participate in the religious divorce process.

“Over the past two decades, financial decisions issued by the Beth Din of America in the fulfillment of a religious prenuptial agreement have been enforced by American courts. The “prenup” has facilitated a religious divorce in situations when a husband refuses to participate or makes unreasonable demands from his wife as a precondition for participating in the religious divorce process,” describes Rabbi Shlomo Weissman, JD, an author of the study and the director of the Beth Din of America.

“The signing of the religious prenuptial agreement is voluntary and has not been universally accepted, so we had a unique opportunity to compare groups of individuals who signed it and did not sign it in order to research how signing the agreement is associated with marital outcomes and one’s tendency to consider divorce during marriage,” explains Dr. Maybruch.

The study, which included 2,652 Orthodox Jews from North America, was part of a larger study of the association between premarital relationship education and marital quality that Dr. Maybruch conducted for her doctoral dissertation in 2012 at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School. Dr. Maybruch collaborated with Rabbi Weissman at the Beth Din of America to include several questions regarding the religious prenuptial agreement in her survey for the purpose of this study.

Dr. Steven Pirutinsky, assistant professor of social work at Touro College, contributed his expertise in statistical research and analysis to the study.

By JLBWC Staff

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