Last weekend, the Star-Ledger published a powerful opinion piece written by a guest columnist who explains the real fears some New Jersey women face if they wish to seek a divorce. The woman explains that in the Orthodox Jewish community, women typically marry at a young age because their parents choose a spouse for them. The guest columnist had a marriage arranged for her when she was 19 years old.
Like many other married people who become unhappy with the way their relationship has turned out with a spouse, the woman said that she considered filing for a divorce from her husband. But unlike many other New Jersey couples who may feel like their interests will be protected by state laws during a divorce, the guest columnist said that she felt trapped by Orthodox laws and customs. She was told by several rabbis in the community that she would lose any child custody rights if she divorced her husband.
The woman explains that in the Orthodox community, it is a severe offense if a woman fails to follow certain traditions. Additionally, if a married woman with children chooses to leave to the community and divorce her husband, she could lose custody of her children during the divorce process. Like any other New Jersey family court judge, an Orthodox Jewish court judge will analyze many factors when determining child custody arrangements, even religion.
However, religion is typically the main factor that an Orthodox Jewish court judge will use to determine child custody arrangements. If a mother expresses her desire to leave the community, a judge could make the argument that she would not be able to provide a stable environment for her children.
We will continue this discussion next week on our Somerville family law blog, focusing on how the guest columnist from the Star-Ledger was able to overcome her challenges and how her story sheds light on the real hesitations and fears other New Jersey women and men may have about divorce, especially if they have children and fear losing custody of their kids during the divorce process.
Source: Star-Ledger, "Among N.J. Orthodox Jewish women, child custody fears form barrier to freedom," Fraidy Reiss, April 15, 2012