Is the Ketubah contract legit or just a ceremony?

Almost everybody at a Jewish wedding knows what the Ketubah is, but not as many people know to what extent that Jewish wedding contract holds in a court. This article will cover that.

Is the Ketubah contract legit or just a ceremony? 

The excitement and joy of the wedding day is tangible. From when the first of the family members arrive, the first guest showing up, way until the last one leaves, there’s a feeling in the air felt by all. Joy, happiness and laughter.

For the bride and groom these feelings are no different. The suit, may be of a different wool. The dress may be a slightly different shade of white, or possibly just slightly longer than that of a friend. And hey, the puff might just put yours over the top, but one thing that is sure to be sketched on the faces of the new couple, is a smile. A smile of joy, and a vision for a life of happiness and laughter for years to come.

With smiles, love and laughter, the commitment may come easy, but what happens when things don’t necessarily work as planned? We all know the saying, “when diamonds aren’t enough”. Yes, the couple may try to work things out and stay together, but there are times when divorce may be the calling. In such a case, is the monetary aspect of the Ketubah text binding?

In truth, this question cannot be simply answered. You see, at times it is enforced, while in some cases it is not.

General rules:

In Israel, for example, the Ketubah is legally recognized as a binding contract. For this reason, it is not of wonder as to the specifications attesting to the amount to be paid in case of a divorce – as seen on many Israeli Ketubot. These amounts are either written in the shekel currency, or in a dollar’s amount.

Whereas in the USA, the Ketubah as a whole, typically, has no upholding in a court. This has mainly to do with the way that the Ketubah is written. The Ketubah, written in Aramaic, is a language not familiar to its beneficiaries. If so, the question gets posed, how can we extract money in such circumstances?

Additionally, in some actual cases, judges pointed to the fact that the Ketubah is not defined enough in a dollar value. While at other times, judges ruled that the Ketubah has more ceremonial significance and is not set forth as a legal obligation.

Exclusions to the rules:

It should be noted, that these rulings are in a case that the Ketubah was ‘written’ in the USA and the contract therefore didn’t meet the terms of a binding agreement.

There are, however, cases where the Ketubah may very likely be enforced, even in an American court-house.

Due to the American conflict of law rules, if a Ketubah is executed / ‘written’ in a country that Ketubot are legally enforceable, an American court-house may very likely extend that ruling even here.

To be fair, the value of the Ketubah is not so clear in its own right. As the translation of the Talmudic currencies mentioned in the Ketubah into dollars, is a matter of dispute. Therefore, the fact it may not typically be recognized, isn’t too shocking.

Nonetheless, the amount specified in the Ketubah shouldn’t be dismissed. For it is in this wording that the Ketubah has been written for 1000’s of years. As well, according to Jewish law, this amount would need to be paid at a time of divorce in a Rabbinical court.

In short:

While one may have a hard time extracting monetary dues of a Ketubah in a court case, the amount on the Ketubah should nonetheless not be belittled. The Ketubah is of significance in a Jewish Rabbinic court. In addition so has been done for 1000’s of years by world Jewry.

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