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Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh| 5765
A Couple who Continued Living Together After Divorce - Based on Piskei Din Rabbaniim - vol. XV, pp. 52-55
Case: A couple continued living together immediately after divorce as if nothing had changed, to the extent that acquaintances were not aware that they were divorced. After a few months, the husband died. The wife requests to have her status, as listed in her identity papers, changed from divorced to widowed. She demonstrated that in this case there are no legal ramifications of this change and that she is interested in the change for emotional reasons alone.
Majority Ruling: Usually, when a couple lives together after divorce, we must suspect that their cohabitation includes a desire to be remarried, because people do not want to live promiscuosly (Gittin 81). Therefore, one might want to say that we should consider this woman remarried after the divorce. But there are reasons to say that the aforementioned rule does not apply in our case.
One general idea, which the Beit Ephrayim (62) cites in the name of the Shaagat Aryeh, is that nowadays that people are unaware that cohabitation effects kiddushin, we don’t assume that living together includes intention for marriage. There are varied opinions whether we say that the rule applies to people who do not approach morality from a halachic perspective. Many say that since their feeling of whether they are living promiscuously is the important thing for them, irrespective of the halachic status of kiddushin, we do not assume they intended to have kiddushin.
In our case, the matter is simpler. The aforementioned rule is based on the possibility that the couple reconsidered their divorce and had in mind to get remarried. But in our case, all indications are that the couple planned the entire time to continue living together despite the fact that they decided to legally and halachically end their marriage. The woman was allusive when asked to explain the motivation to get divorced. Therefore, there is no indication that anything changed their decision to be formally divorced.
Certainly, if this couple would have requested at some later point to get remarried, we would have required chupa v’kiddushin. Therefore, there is at most a doubtful case for kiddushin having taken place. Neither batei din nor the authorities are in the practice of changing official status based on doubts that arise. We are responsible to provide the authorities with the true status of the couple. We do not accept the minority opinion’s attempt to accommodate the woman by writing both divorced and widowed, based on the possibility the status is true and the fact that there is no legal difference. We must be as exact as possible and should not discount future consequences.
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