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Compulsory Divorce

According to Jewish law a husband must give a get to his wife of his own free will. Therefore, most of the solutions try to bypass this problem by signing an agreement that will determine the proceedings for giving a get or by pre-determining conditions that will prevent the need for a get. Talmudic scholars agreed to compel a man to divorce his wife in certain situations, whereas the compulsion is exercised on solid legal ground thus rendering the divorce valid.  Maimonides explained that when a man got married according to the religion of Moses and Israel, he accepted rabbinic authority and would therefore also agree to divorce if the rabbis required it, except that in certain circumstances, in spite of his inner willingness to divorce, his evil instincts (yetzer harah) prevents him from giving the get.

The Talmud also lists cases in which the rabbis can compel a husband to give a getThese are cases in which, due to his profession or medical condition, the husband has a permanent offensive odor. Additionally, most of decisors agree divorce should be compelled if the husband ceases to support his wife financially (the rabbis discuss whether he should first be forced to support her and only then to divorce her).  

Rabbinic authorities disagree regarding the halakhic basis for compelling a get when a woman claims ma'is alai (she is disgusted by her husband and unable to be in an intimate relationship with him), since in the printed version of the Talmud [Vilna edition] is not clear-cut on this issue. In Geonic times it was decided to compel a get in such cases so that women wouldn't stray (i.e. turn to Islamic courts, or even convert to Islam and marry a non-Jew because of their husband’s recalcitrance). Since Islamic courts would compel divorce, the Geonim preferred to do so in the framework of Rabbinic Courts. According to Nahmanides, this rabbinic enactment was valid for 500 years. Maimonides claimed (unrelated to this enactment) that coercion must occur in this situation since "she is not as slave to be forced to be intimate with someone she hates", however Rabbeinu Tam opposed this and his opinion was accepted in most Jewish communities (except for Yemenites, that ruled according to Maimonides).

As of the thirteenth century, many decisors agreed to compel divorce in cases of domestic violence, while others rejected this solution.

Rabbinic Courts in Israel avoid compelling a get or even requiring one (which is considered less severe), following the Hatam Sofer's claim that it is not possible to compel a get unless all rabbinic authorities recognize that there is a valid reason for compulsion. The Hazon Ish disagreed with the Hatam Sofer and wrote "The Hatam Sofer's ruling cannot be upheld." 

Although Rabbeinu Tam compelled a get in only a small number of cases, he was willing to imply indirect social pressure on recalcitrant husbands.  Rabbeinu Tam's "Shunning Measure" employs such strategies as not praying in public with a certain man, not visiting him when he’s ill, not burying him in a Jewish grave, etc. These methods were efficient when the Jewish people lived in homogenous communities and everyone felt committed to a halakhic lifestyle.

In 1995, The Knesset passed a law known as "The Sanctions Law"  (the 1953 law in effect until then only allowed Rabbinic Court judges to send a recalcitrant husband to jail with the government legal advisor's approval) based on this shunning measure.  According to "The Sanctions Law" not only can the recalcitrant husband be put in jail, but the following list of rights can be suspended:  travel outside of Israel; obtaining, holding or renewing an Israeli passport; receiving, holding or renewing an Israeli driver's license; being elected or holding public office; engaging in an occupation or running a business that requires a license or permit; opening or holding a bank account; and, if he is a prisoner, preventing him from wandering freely,  enjoying leave privileges or early release. An amendment (approved in 2000) adds that it is possible to keep a recalcitrant husband in solitary confinement.

In a sovereign state, in which the law authorizes Rabbinic Courts to be assisted by the police and to apply a long list of sanctions, even without compelling a get, this solution can be very helpful in obtaining the long awaited get for many women.  

Rabbinic authorities who oppose the above method claim that it can only be legitimately applied in those cases expounded in the Talmud. In all other cases, if these  "freed women" remarry and have children with their new partner without a kosher get, these would be considered mamzerim (or bastards) according to Jewish law and would not be permitted to marry another Jew.  Conversely, some Rabbinic Court judges have already compelled or required a get for a wider variety of reasons than those that appear in the Talmud.  Applying this method outside of Israel, however, is much more difficult.