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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim| 5770

Pninat Mishpat: Backing Out of Relinquishing Rights to a Ketuba

(condensed from Mishpetei Shaul, siman 27)

Case: A couple began adjudication, with the husband asking to give a get and the wife asking for reconciliation. The two finally agreed on a get and empowered beit din to come to a compromise ruling on finances. As a result, the wife was to receive, along with her get, 28,000 liras, with which she would have relinquished any claims for a ketuba payment. The couple did not carry out the get, and the wife is now (a year and a half later) asking for reconciliation, including mezonot (spousal support). She claims that they had been living, in the interim, as husband and wife. The husband denies they had been living in such a manner and wants the right to remarry. He says that since she agreed to divorce with a financial settlement, she already waived rights to the conditions of the ketuba, including mezonot, and he is ready to carry out the agreement, including giving a get. While the wife is capable of reneging on her agreement to be divorced, the husband claims that this should not affect the financial element of the agreement. The wife claims that the financial element is linked to the ending of the marriage and thus if the marriage will continue as she is demanding, the financial agreement is meaningless.


Ruling: The wife is entitled to mezonot. Even if we were not to accept linkage between the financial elements and the get, the husband would have to carry out, in practice, his part of the agreement within thirty days by giving the 28,000 liras to implement the agreement. If she were unwilling to receive the money, the husband could do his share by putting the money in escrow in beit din’s control. In practice, only after the wife’s demand for mezonot and reconciliation did the husband show a willingness to pay the money. With the great devaluation in the currency in the meantime, it is inconceivable to leave that sum of money as her only financial rights.

Although the ruling could end here, we want to relate to the fundamental claim that there is not linkage between the get and the financial agreement. The sources that the husband’s lawyer brings from rulings of Rabbinate courts are not pertinent. One says that the woman’s relinquishing (mechila) of ketuba rights is binding even if no get is given, but that is said only when she explicitly made the mechila effective immediately. Even if there were a doubt on the matter, we would say that a doubtful mechila does not undo a definite existing obligation. In truth, though, both elements of the agreement were decided upon by the beit din as one whole unit and their implementations are inseparable.


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