This essay “Judaism and Divorce” will examine this multi-layered approach to divorce, the tension that can exist between religious scripture and state divorce law, and how divorce among Jews compares with people from other religions…
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Although divorce in the United States of America is governed primarily by state laws, religion also plays an important role when many people consider divorce as an option. This is true whether the married couple is Christian, Jewish, Mormon, or attached to any other religious institution. What results is a multi-layered approach to divorce in which religious scripture exists alongside state law as a governing set of principles and processes. Of particular interest is when religious doctrine cannot be neatly harmonized with secular state laws; this is significant because there are instances, such as in the case of Judaism, when a civil divorce is granted under a state's laws but not granted pursuant to Jewish doctrine. The consequences can be especially difficult for Jewish women. This essay will examine this multi-layered approach to divorce, the tension that can exist between religious scripture and state divorce law, and how divorce among Jews compares with people from other religions. As a preliminary matter, divorce must be considered within a legal context. In the United States that means a combination of federal and state law; in the case of divorce, state laws are fundamentally controlling. Indeed, as stated by a leading scholar in the field, "Judges, scholars and practitioners commonly assume that family law decisions are quintessentially matters of state law. For example, a common theme of the Supreme Court's federalism decisions is the assertion that "family law (including marriage, divorce, and child custody).
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