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Need for Get after Civil Marriage

If a Jewish couple is married only for the purposes of immigration status and there was not a Jewish ceremony, rings exchanged, or any Jewish witnesses, is a Get necessary once they are legally divorced? Although we were a couple, the marriage was not considered legitimate by either of us, nor were we publicly known as a married couple. We have not been a couple for over 3 years and filed for divorce recently. I have recently become an observant Jew and I am concerned about my future marriage being pure and if I need to obtain a Get before I am remarried. If it is not necessary I would rather not receive one since it seems by performing a Get I would recognizing the marriage as holy, when in my mind and heart it was merely an arrangement to help another person (which I realize now was a mistake). I also would like to know if a man is permitted to propose to me before I am legally divorced since the marriage was not recognized by Jewish law. I am seriously dating a religious man and I am expecting him to propose in the near future. Thank you for your time.


You do not require a get, and there is no problem in somebody proposing marriage to you.

Good Luck, and chag sameach for now!


The reason for which there might be some concern over the question of a get, even though no “Torah marriage” took place, is because of the principle of “ein adam oseh be’ilaso beilas zenus,” meaning that we assume people who live together as husband and wife do not wish to perform marital relations outside the framework of marriage, and therefore have intention to marry by means of the marital relations themselves.

In this case, however, we would not say this, the reason being that the concept of a person enacting a marriage by the means described above applies only where the couple tried to enact a Torah marriage by other means, but did not succeed in doing so, because of a technical (or other) hitch — for instance, if the item given to the bride for the marriage was of insufficient value — or for a couple that were divorced, yet continued to live together. For two people who live together without a prior attempt at enacting a Torah marriage, and who were never married before, the principle does not apply. This basic principle is stated by Beis Shmuel, (149:6) in the name of Ramban.

Although some dispute the ruling (see Be’er Heitev, Even Ha’ezer 17:161, and Pischei Teshuva 149:7), authorities state further that the principle applies only to those people who we could assume, or at least entertain the possibility, of a subjective intention to enact a Torah marriage. For those who are distant from religious practice, to the extent that there is no doubt as to such an intention, the principle would not apply (see Pischei Teshuvah 149:1, in the name of Mishnah Le’melech, who discusses the case of a person who married while his wife was a niddah, quoting from Radvaz that under such circumstances, the principle would not apply; although Mishnah Le’melech disputes this position, he would surely concede for those who have virtually no connection to Torah practice).

This is similar to the ruling of Shulchan Aruch (149:6) concerning apostates, for whom the principle does not apply.

Furthermore, Shulchan Aruch (149:3) mentions a responsum of Rosh (cited in Tur, Even Ha’ezer 141), which states that for somebody who relies on his marital status, and has no reason to doubt the validity of his marriage, the principle would not apply. In this case, there was a civil marriage, and there was clearly no intention of anything beyond. Many authorities writes that in cases of civil marriage there is no need for a get: see Iggros Moshe (Even Ha’ezer 75); Minchas Elazar (vol, 3, no. 12); Darkei Noam (75); Avnei Efod (vol, 2, no. 27); Yaskil Avdi (2:6 and 6:101), among others; see also letters of Achiezer (30); Or Naner (109, concerning opinion of Chazon Ish); Shema Shelomo (vol. 1, Even Ha’ezer 15).

In addition, there was no public knowledge of the marriage, which is an additional reason for leniency: the marriage is only valid when there are witnesses, and if there is no public knowledge, there are no witnesses.

Therefore, there is no need for a get, and you may happily accept the proposal, whenever the right one should come.

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