The Torah views marriage as a vital institution in Jewish life. But the Torah also recognizes that in some cases marriages do not work out and need to be ended. In order to do so, the husband must willingly give, and the wife must willingly receive, a Jewish bill of divorce, known as a Get. In the absence of a Get, the husband and wife are both precluded from remarrying. Later offspring of the wife may bear the stigma of mamzerut (illegitimacy).
In some cases, spouses have purposely withheld a Get even where their marriages have functionally ended. Some spouses have refused to participate in the Get process in order to extract concessions in divorce negotiations, in order to extort money, or simply out of spite.