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There are many important differences between a civil and a religious divorce. Usually, even where the civil law allows for no-fault divorce, those granting religious divorce have to be convinced there was a moral failure of some kind (i.e., bigamy, incest, desertion, abuse, imprisonment, adultery, etc.).

Religious divorces often treat the wife differently. For instance, she may be restricted from initiating a divorce or can only petition under circumstances of the most severe distress. As a result, because they often hold the power to deny or withhold the religious divorce from their wives, husbands have greater leverage by default when it comes to negotiating the terms of a civil divorce.

To improve your understanding of religious divorces in Alpharetta, get in touch with our team. We can offer insight on the experiences of spouses in religious divorces so you know what to expect in your case.

Religious vs Civil Marital Laws

Religious divorces apply to adherents of certain world religions only, no matter what country they live in. But civil marital laws apply to all citizens of the state or country. This is exemplified in the laws of India, where two separate legal codes exist: the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Special Marriage Act of 1954. The former applies to followers of the Hindu religion exclusively and requires them to marry within their own caste. The Special Marriage Act applies to all Indian citizens regardless of their religion or where they live in the world. No matter what faith an Indian national couple gets married in religiously (or if it is purely civil according to the laws of another nation), it can be registered and legitimated in India under the Special Marriage Act.

Despite the fact that various religions forbid or discourage divorce, they always provide a way for determined practitioners to change their minds. Through marriage and divorce rules, religions attempt to balance the management of basic human impulses (falling in love, falling out of love, making lifelong promises) with legitimate ways to forgive the breaking of those promises. Civil law does not deal with matters of eternal standing, so it does not have to attempt that balance. Divorce grounds, procedures, jurisdictions, and decrees for couples in Alpharetta are all publicly available to any citizen or alien just by virtue of being a resident.

What is the Experience of a Religious Divorce for a Woman?

In Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, along with Protestantism and many other religions, the religion either does not have anything to say about divorcing couples, or no difference exists between husbands’ and wives’ access to religious divorce. However, a power imbalance does exist in some religions, and the experience of married women seeking divorce can be radically different from a man’s experience.

For instance, traditional Jewish or Muslim women whose husbands do not desire or refuse to grant them a religious divorce have no way to escape the marriage legitimately in the eyes of their faith. This presents women with an agonizing choice: remain in a loveless, hurtful, or even abusive situation, or forfeit their religious/eternal standing.

Jewish Women in Divorce

In Orthodox Judaism, the wife is not able to initiate a religious divorce; she can only be on the receiving end of the “get.” Therefore, if she wishes to dissolve her marriage but her husband withholds the get, she is unable to remarry according to her faith. She may find herself civilly divorced but still religiously married, a condition called “limping marriage.”

If her husband is prone to unkindness, he can hold this document over her head in civil divorce negotiations and get a more favorable divorce settlement for himself. However, the reverse is also true. If the man is the one desirous of a religiously validated dissolution, then the woman holds immense power to craft the divorce decree in her favor before accepting the get. Times have been recorded in history when an unaccommodating wife has merely torn the get to pieces.

Muslim Women in Divorce

Certain strains of Islam permit women to initiate divorce by presenting khul’, which requires the husband’s consent. However, in modern times, Islamic law has been interpreted in various places to include the ability to include automatic provisions for divorce in the Muslim marriage contract, a prenuptial agreement of sorts which protects the wife from absolute dependency on the husband.

How Does that Differ from the Experience of a Man?

Catholicism does not provide for different access to annulment for husbands and wives, and either may initiate the proceedings. In Judaism and Islam, however, the rules for religious divorce are notably different for a husband than for a wife. Often this includes increased access and power in divorce held by the husband. For instance, in Islam, talaq is not consensual. A Muslim man is able to void his marriage contract simply by verbally “pronouncing talaq” and paying his wife the promised (deferred) mahr.

In the Hanafi interpretation of Muslim law, the “triple talaq” is a controversial verbal method by which a husband divorces his wife instantly just by pronouncing “talaq” (“I divorce you”) three times at her. That is an imbalance of power and a reason that divorce rates are skyrocketing which the governments of India and Egypt, among others, are reconsidering.

In Judaism, a man simply has to present his wife with a get to be considered religiously divorced. She must accept this document, however, for the religious divorce to become finalized. So, if the man is anxious to remarry someone else, he may negotiate higher alimony payments or the custody of the children in order to satisfy the wife’s requirements for accepting the get.

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