ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Orit Gan (Sapir College, School of Law) - KCON Scholarship Spotlight

The conference is over but the scholarship lives on. This is one of a series of posts highlighting several KCON XII presenters who graciously provided me with abstracts or summaries of their presentations.


Gett Abuse

Orit Gan (Sapir College, School of Law)

SapirLogoUnder Jewish law divorce occurs when the husband writes and delivers and the wife accepts a gett. Until wife is granted a gett she may not remarry or date. Some men use the gett as a bargaining chip to extort favorable economic divorce agreements. In other words men threaten women by refusing to grant them a gett unless they will succumb to their financial demands. This is gett abuse.

Women who pay for their gett resist enforcement of the divorce agreements by claiming duress, and U.S. courts usually accept such claims. However, based on anti-commodification theories I claim that trading the gett for money should be prohibited. I suggest that gett should be an inalienable right for two reasons. Women pay for a gett under conditions of severe inequality. They are coerced by the necessities of the situation. Moreover, this exchange has a degrading effect. Women's autonomy, dignity and freedom are corrupted and diminished by trading the gett. In an ideal world a gett should not be commodified.

However, we do not live in an ideal world. In today's reality, trading a gett also has advantages for women. Paying for a gett is their only way to break free from the marriage. The alternative is staying married against their will. Furthermore, women bring tort claims against their husbands in civil courts for gett refusal claiming emotional distress. Women then leverage the compensation that they are awarded to get a gett. They use the tort claim to improve their bargaining power and trade the damages awarded for a gett.

Therefore both commodification and non-commodification of gett have both advantages and disadvantages for women. A way out of this double bind dilemma is to recognize incomplete commodification.

The gett abuse analysis has broader implications. For example, the gett abuse analysis may be applicable to custody negotiations. Spouses bargain for their children's custody and maintenance upon divorce. Studies show that women are willing to waive financial rights in order to get custody. This transaction may have the corruption and coercion effects and therefore custody may also be an inalienable right.

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