The commandment of release from a levirate marriage is done with three Jewish judges, who must not be related to each other nor to the brother-in-law or widow. Rem"a: And even two men who are married to two sisters should not be together [in the group of three judges]. But for one of them to be the second of three [judges] is valid. And [the judges] may even be common people, as long as they know how to read to the brother-in-law and the widow. And if she was released before unknowledgeable people who do not know how to read [to them], the release is valid.
And similarly if two come and say, "We saw something like an engagement celebration," "We heard a rumor," "We heard from a certain man who heard from a different man that a certain woman was married in front of two other men, and then those witnesses went to some other country (- or they died),", behold, that is a rumor that gives her the assumption of being married. Rama: Some say that the voice is only [considered credible] when it is two [witnesses] who hear from two [witnesses], but not if it is one [who hears it] from two (Tur in the name of the Rosh, and the Ran, and the Maggid Mishneh in the name of the Rashba). We do not suspect rumors unless it is upheld in a court of law, and the court investigates the matter, and they hear there is substance to the rumor, as has been explained, but so long as it is not upheld in court, it is not [credible], unless it is a place where there is a strong assumption she was married, then we do not need the upholding through the court (Maharik shoresh 87). And the court should go [even in that case] and examine the rumor, in order to clarify if there is substance (Bet Yosef in the name of the Tashbetz and the Rashba).
What are the circumstances? When there was no excuse. But if there was an explanation and they heard the explanation at the same time as the rumor of betrothal, she is not presumed to be betrothed. What is the nature of the excuse? Where witnesses said that the [rumored] betrothal was conditional; or doubtful, for instance they said that he tossed her kiddushin, possibly closer to him, possibly closer to her, or where there is room for doubt as to whether the kiddushin was worth a perutah, or he (the groom) was a minor; then she is not presumed to be betrothed, rather we ask her [what happened] and rely on her word, since there is no definitive proof and no strong rumor.
If a rumor spread about a woman that she had been betrothed to so-and-so, and after a few days they gave her explanation (lit. excuse), if the explanation seems reasonable, we rely on it and there is no presumption that she was betrothed. If no [explanation was forthcoming], since the explanation was not heard at the time that we heard of her [possible] betrothal, we do not worry about an explanation [coming later].Rama: If it later became clear that the rumor was false, for instance where the purported marriage witnesses in front of whom the marriage was said to have taken place, came forth and said, "It never occurred," the court nullifies the rumor (Tur in the name of Ramah). Some authorities say that nowadays we do not nullify rumors of possible marriage (Beit Yosef as supported by Rambam, and as likewise apparent in Rif, and Ran wrote similarly in chapter haMekadesh). If he (the groom) sent gifts (sivlonot) in a manner that we would not usually view this as indicating prior marriage (as described above in Siman 45), even though a rumor had spread - based on the gifts - that she had been betrothed, we are not concerned about this rumor because it is common to use the terminology kiddushin (betrothal) when talking about sivlonot (gifts) (So implied in Responsa Rosh rule 35). In any situation where we do not need to do so, we should not rule stringently with respect to rumors, so as not to support the hand of evil people who spread rumors about the daughters of Israel to anchor them (prevent their marriage) or to extort money from them (Beit Yosef in the name of Rashba).
If a rumor spread that she was married to s0-and-so, and another man came forth and betrothed her in front of court, we examine the circumstances of the rumored betrothal. If definite eyewitnesses testified that she is betrothed to the first man, the second betrothal is null. If not, the first man whose betrothal was imputed by rumor grants her divorce, and the second man marries her, since his betrothal was definite. If the second man divorced her, the first man may not marry her lest people will say that he remarried his ex-wife from betrothal after she had subsequently betrothed another (which is forbidden explicitly in Deuteronomy 24:4). If the second man brought her under the chupa (i.e. completed the marriage) before she was divorced from the first man, she is forever forbidden to him (the second man), even after divorce from the first man (See supra chapter 31 se'if 4).
If a rumor spread that she was betrothed to so-and-so, and another rumor similarly spread that she was betrothed to another, one man divorces and one man marries, whether the first or the second.
If a rumor goes out that she was married to a certain man and then divorced him, we do not suspect she was prohibited to other men because of her [supposed] marriage, nor do we prohibit her [to marry] a kohen because of her rumored divorce.
A rumor spread after nisuin (complete marriage), or even after erusin (betrothal), saying that she had previously been betrothed, is not to be heeded. Rama: Even if the rumor [of prior betrothal] had spread previously but had not been validated in court until after this betrothal, we do not investigate the rumor to validate it (Beit Yosef in the name of Ramban). Nevertheless, if she admits afterward that she had been betrothed to the first (rumored) man, she is forbidden to her husband (as implied by Responsa Rosh rule 35), since the rumor had spread prior to the second betrothal (R. Nathan gave a praiseworthy reason to differentiate between our case and the case where she said "I am impure" etc.). And see infra end of siman 48.