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Comments on the New York State "Get Law"
Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz

Are threats of possible monetary sanctions or penalties considered as coercion to render a get me'usseh? If there is a self imposed monetary penalty for not giving a get, some authorities have ruled that such a get is not a get me'usseh, but others rule that it is.11 The ruling of the Ramo in the Shulchan Aruch is that ab initio the possible fine should be removed before the get procedure; however, if it were carried out without its removal, the get is valid since he was not directly coerced for the get. 12 Consequently, in any Sidur Haget (Jewish divorce proceedings), statements are made by the husband in order to remove even the remotest possibility of compulsion in the get process. There should not be even a tinge of a get me'usseh. However, it is quite clear from the above ruling of Ramo that if "b'dieved, a get was issued because of any monetary fine, etc., the get is valid.

The question of any implicit monetary coercion or coercive actions (oness) taken against others, which may indirectly influence the husband's decision to cooperate in the get, occupies a great deal of space in the Bet Yosef's commentary on the above section of Even Haezer. The prevailing current opinion does not consider such indirect pressures as being in the category of a get me'usseh. 13 This is reflected in the above-cited passage in Ramo, who excepts only the case of pressures which are exerted on a father in order to compel the son to give a get. Otherwise, as defined by Tashbatz,14 it is not considered as an "oness" (involuntary) if it is not directly applicable to the husband.

The Gaon R. Yoav Weingarten discusses the problem of oness mammon, possible monetary pressures on the husband. He cites the Rabbenu Yerucham 15 in the case of a woman who seized notes due to her husband, whereupon the husband gave a get which Rabbenu Yerucham ruled was kosher. After an analysis of the concept of "ratzon" (will), the Chelkat Yoav, following the guidelines of the Torah explains that where no direct reference is made to the get, but the husband understands that he can avoid the possible loss by voluntarily giving the get, then it is not considered an oness and the get is valid. 17

In a series of responsa, the late gaon Harav Yitzchok Isaac Halevy Herzog18 discussed in depth the question of possible coercion as far as a get me'usseh is concerned. In view of the practice of rabbinic tribunals in Israel to compel a recalcitrant husband to pay mezonot (support) to his wife who is demanding a get, the decision on this point has serious halachic implications. It might seem that the husband is under compulsion to give a get in order to be relieved of the burden of payments; however, since the husband cannot remarry because of the "Cherem of Rabbenu Gershom" (a medieval enactment which forbids a man to be married to two women at the same time) this latter factor could possibly be the reason for his voluntary cooperation in giving a get, since he clearly states that he is giving the get of his own free will. (In other words, the husband can be considered to be giving the get, not because of the financial pressure but because of the permissible rabbinic pressure which prohibits his own remarriage unless he divorces his first wife). He finds basic support for this approach in the analysis of the Oneg Yom Tov:19 the very fact that he wants to be free to marry is in the category of "onseh dinafshei," self-imposed coercion, which is not considered a true oness, inasmuch as the coercion is not directed towards giving a get but rather to freeing himself from being attached to his wife so that he may marry another woman.

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