The question whether religious norms and laws should be ‘accommodated’ by the state has become an important issue in civic society, with a particular focus on the working of religious courts. The debate has largely taken place without much reference to empirical evidence of their organisation or operation. An empirical case-study of three different religious tribunals, Muslim, Jewish and Catholic, which deal with religious annulments and divorces, sheds light on how religious tribunals may be run and how they view their purpose and relationship with the state. In the tribunals in the study, the main focus of operation was on the determination of parties’ status for the purposes of remarriage within the faith, rather than on handling the consequences of the termination of the marriage. They operated in full awareness of, and were influenced by, the wider social context in which their litigants live their lives. Furthermore they recognised very clearly the limits of their jurisdiction and the importance of compliance with the civil law.