'Chain' divorces pull in more lawyers

SOLICITOR involvement in Jewish divorce cases may be increasing the number of people “chained” to their spouses by ancient religious laws.

Some sources believe the trend has weakened the ability of Rabbis to find amicable solutions when one party – usually the husband – refuses to grant the “get” or final bill of divorce.

The other party becomes “chained” or “Agunot”, can be stigmatised and, under Jewish law, is not allowed to remarry in either an Orthodox or United Synagogue.

Earlier this month, more than 50 Jewish women held a protest vigil outside the office of the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks to highlight the plight of Agunot women.

Some authorities believe that gets are held up by people turning to solicitors when traditionally a Rabbi would negotiate between the parties, to ensure the divorce goes smoothly.

Jeremy Phillips, registrar to the Courts of the Chief Rabbi, said that many of the 130 outstanding get cases were delayed rather than insoluble. Only 30 of these involved a partner not co-operating.

“Whereas in the old days we would get the husbands coming in or wife coming in,” he said. “Nowadays we get a letter from a law firm saying 'don't rush the divorce'. We now have to correspond with four parties instead of two.”

But one Jewish women's campaigner, Susan Blackman, dismissed the claim. She said women had been refused gets for up to half a century out of spite rather than delay.

She said the law was biased in favour of men and added: “In the vast majority of the cases, it is the man who refuses. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on them to give in.”

Gloria Proops, recently granted a get after 20 years, said: “I was deprived of the chance to remarry and there are many more women whose lives are being blighted.”