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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi | 5771

Pninat Mishpat: A Husband Who Denies Giving a Get

(condensed from Shurat Hadin, vol. III, pp. 150-152)

Case: A woman (=pl)living in America says that she is divorced, but her husband (=def) came to beit din in Israel and said that he never divorced her. A reputable beit din in America sent an affidavit signed by one of the dayanim stating that he officiated at the couple’s divorce, to which def responds that either the beit din took a bribe or someone masqueraded as him to carry out the divorce. The beit din in America said that proper precautions had been taken to confirm the husband’s identity and that they believe that def snuck into the office where the couple’s file was found and stole it (a complaint was made to the police).
Ruling: The halacha is that if a woman says that her husband divorced her, she is believed, but only if she does so to his face, because as a rule a wife would not have the gall to lie on such a matter to her husband’s face (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 17:2). However, the Rama (ad loc.) says that nowadays there is too much chutzpa in the world to keep this halacha. The Beit Shmuel (ad loc. 4) says that now that the officiator of the divorce saves the get in his files, she is not believed because the evidence can and should be produced.
It is questionable whether in this case it is considered that pl made the claim to def’sface, for they did not meet in person, but on the other hand, pl made the claim in a public forum knowing he would be informed (see Chatam Sofer, VI 69). The Chatam Sofer also says that nowadays if the beit din does not have the ripped up get, it is a sign that she was not divorced. However, if there are good explanations as to why it is missing, as in this case, it is not a drawback.
On the other hand, there is a reason to not believe pl because when a woman is supported by some evidence (i.e., the affidavit) that she is divorced, she is not believed that she is divorced because, with support, it does not take chutzpa to make the claim.
Here, however, we should not need def’s testimony since there is a document of beit din that attests to her being divorced, and one beit din does not question the conclusions of another. There is a theoretical possibility that pl arranged for someone to impersonate def, but that requires a tremendous amount of chutzpa and also beit din requires means of identification. Here there is also another reason to distrust the husband since the file was stolen, and we should trust the beit din that they have good reason to suspect def. Therefore, we can assume that the woman was divorced.
What is more problematic is that def claims that he lived with pl in a manner that witnesses knew about it and had relations with her after the time of the apparent get. While kosher witnesses did not yet appear on the matter, since def now says that he is willing to give another get, we should arrange one.
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