Could a Jewish person who innocently relied on a ‘get’ (Jewish divorce) obtained via a rabbinical court abroad be breaking the law if he remarries in a civil ceremony abroad and later discovers that the first divorce was not valid?By: דיאנה שאלתיאל•Published on: 02 May, 2022
Yes ! Israeli Singer Matti Caspi was convicted of bigamy by Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court which held that the religious divorce he had supposedly obtained abroad was not valid in Israeli law and, therefore, he was still married when he got wed to his second wife in a civil ceremony abroad.
The offence of bigamy under 1977 Israeli Penal Code the does not make a distinction between a valid and a void marriage regarding the alleged second marriage. Hence, one can be convicted under the Israeli criminal law of bigamy when one enters into a second marriage while still formally in the first, even though one lacks the legal capacity for this second marriage and according to Jewish law it is void from the start ( as only religious marriage to another Jew, according to Jewish law is valid) !
Someone who relies on the validity of a divorce obtained via a rabbinical court abroad may, mistakenly, think he is divorced though in Israeli law the first marriage may still be valid, if there are jurisdictional/procedural flaws in the ‘get’ process. He could be charged with bigamy.
The paradox is that the Penal Code recognizes a foreign civil marriage involving a Jew who is a citizen and resident – for the purposes of bigamy, though ironically a civil marriage abroad involving at least one Jew who is a citizen and resident of Israel has no legal validity in Israeli substantive law. This is because Israeli civil law adopts and internalizes Jewish religious law regarding marriage and divorce. Furthermore, a Jew who is a citizen and resident of Israel lacks the legal capacity to enter into a civil marriage abroad, according to Jewish religious law, the personal law applying to Jews in Israel. He can only marry another Jew, in a traditional Jewish wedding, according to Din Torah.