But what if your spouse refuses to appear before the Beis Din that you chose? There is a solution. A representative of your Beis Din and a representative of your spouse’s Beis Din will either agree to appear before a third Beis Din (with your approval) or you will agree to a zabla.

A zabla referes to a compromise by which a representative of your Beis Din and a representative of your spouse’s Beis Din agree that your marital issues will be decided by three persons, e.g., borerim, arbitrators chosen by each party to represent them in the dispute, who must listen to the facts, and try to remain objective. The two borerim then agree on a third borer (“shlish”) for the panel to act as the chief dayan. Even in a zabla you have the right to be represented by an attorney and/or a to’en.

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Please remember that there are costs and fees to be paid for all of the above. The two parties must pay all Beis Din fees equally. That is halacha.

I have been faced with the following scenario many times: “I was just called to come to a Beis Din later tonight, or early tomorrow morning. I don’t know what to do. I have no one to watch my kids or I have work, and the rabbi said that if I come right away and sign a piece of paper, I will receive my Get immediately, what do I do?”

Do not go and do not sign anything without reading and fully understanding the document. Instead, review the document with an attorney or to’en; and understand your rights as they are explained.

Presumably, you are being asked to sign a sh’tar berurim (arbitration agreement) which binds you to the Beis Din and states what the conditions are for you to obtain a Get. These conditions and agreements will be upheld in secular court and are rarely overturned. By signing this document without truly understanding what it says, many women have unknowingly signed away their rights to maintenance/alimony, their marital home and assets, their finances (including monies and gifts given to them by their parents). Even worse, women have given up their right to child support, custody and visitation, and even their right to make decisions about their children’s health and education.

I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: Do not sign any paper(s) unless every single word has been explained to you by an attorney or advocate who is on your side!

So hopefully, by now, you know not to panic if you receive a hazmana. You know what to do and not to act in haste. You can protect yourself within the Beis Din procedure until you are able to find an advocate, an attorney or to’en to represent you. Take the time to calm down, carefully analyze the situation, and have enough information to proceed to the next step.

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Margaret E. Retter, Esq. is an attorney in New York. Ms. Retter established DIN Legal Centers, Inc, a non-profit legal organization which represents men and women in marital disputes in Beis Din. Ms. Retter recently created www.kol-isha.org, a website dedicated to educating Jewish women facing the challenges of today’s world. Our goal is to share information with you, to empower you, so that you are informed about many of the issues, which trouble frum women. She can be reached at info@kol-isha.org.

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