BALTIMORE (WJZ–Bitter divorce battles can last some couples upwards of a year, but for one Maryland woman the plight to formally end her marriage took more than a decade.

Derek Valcourt has her story and explains why she isn’t alone.

WJZ first met Cynthia Ohana eight years ago when she and her supporters were picketing in front of her ex-husbands workplace all to embarrass him into granting her a Jewish divorce.

Valcourt: “How much pressure did you have to apply to make this happen?”

“Too much. Too much unnecessary pressure,” said Cynthia Ohana.

Getting a civil divorce in court was much easier than getting a divorce in the eyes of her faith. That’s because under strict Jewish law — the husband must sign a document called a “get” to make a divorce official.

For more than 10 years Cynthia’s husband refused.

Valcourt: “Do you know why your husband wouldn’t grant you a divorce, a Jewish divorce?”

“It’s a form of control,” Ohana said.

“Sometimes what happens is these husbands refuse to cooperate and they’ll do so in order to extort concessions from the wife or simply out of spite or really out of control,” said Rabbi Jeremy Stern.

Rabbi Jeremy Stern works with a national group that organizes rallies on behalf of many women in the same situation.

Valcourt: “Why is this divorce so necessary for these women?”

“So without the Jewish divorce these women cannot remarry within their faith, within their community, Stern said. They are still considered married. If they are to engage in an intimate relationship with another man that is considered adulterous, these are religious women and obviously that’s not an option for them.”

“It’s our religion it’s what we believe in,” said Ohana.

Cynthia’s ordeal now over after her husband finally signed the documents.

“I would like to believe for the sake of humanity that he just decided to do the right thing, but that’s not what it took. That’s not what happened. What happened was as a result of all the rallies and the pressure and the negotiations, I believe he felt up against the wall and had to do it,” Ohana said.

New York is the only state in the country with a law on the books to prevent men legally divorced from withholding documents which allow that divorce to be recognized within their faith.

A similar bill in Maryland a few years didn’t passed. Advocates are hoping it will one day become law here.

WJZ tried but we were not able to reach the attorney representing Cynthia Ohana’s ex-husband.


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