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Divorce for non Jews


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 15, 5779
What is Judaisms view on divorce for non Jews ?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Judaism is unique in that while it has a complete Torah and G-dly Law for the Jewish people, it also has a G-dly law for the non Jews. One major section of the law that applies to non Jewish (generally called the Noachide laws), center around marriage and inappropriate relations. Therefor your question is a good one – is there a permission for non Jews to divorce? Let is start by saying that the institution of marriage is proper for all people. So, non Jews marrying each other is certainly proper. In this framework of marriage, they must remain faithful to each other, and not engage in any extra-marital affairs. As to divorce – the Talmud Yerushalmi (Kiddushin Chapter 1, law 1) discusses this question. There are several opinions, however the commentators point out that the discussion is only about the way to divorce (with a written bill of divorce, or just orally), and not about the ability to divorce alltogether (see the Korban HaAdah there). Therefore, the answer to your question is that a marriage between non Jews can be ended with divorce. As to the technical process – the details need to be looked into, but it seems that the process used in most countries for a secular divorce would be enough from a Jewish perspective to be considered as a divorce. That being said, apart from the legal aspect, one should note that a non Jewish marriage that ends in divorce is a tragic matter (just as a Jewish marriage). Mankind was created with the idea of marriage as a G-dly plan (see the first chapters of Berashit in the Torah). With this being so, one should take marriage very seriously, and put much effort into making it work. Only where there is no hope for a good marriage do we even start to think about divorce as an option. So, in answer to your question – our view on divorce in the non Jewish world is similar to that of what we advice in the Jewish world (except that the procedure is importantly different for Jews, as they need to attain a religious divorce from a Jewish court). In our generation all the more so do we need to put effort into building loving families, who can raise children in the ideal situation of a healthy relationship between the parents. Blessings.
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