What is a civil divorce and how is the procedure performed?

Many couples in Israel choose to marry according to the religious ceremony, and use the rabbinate. But, in many cases this does not happen, willingly or due to lack of choice, and the marriage is performed abroad (and not a Jewish ceremony). When couples that were married in this way wish to divorce, they must do so by a process of civil divorce. How the divorce carried out and how to get through it in the best possible way? Below is all the information.

Civil divorce – for whom is it suitable?

Any person who was not married by the Rabbinate and chose (or was forced) to formalize the relationship though a civil marriage abroad, must undergo a civil divorce if he/she wants a divorce. One can name a number of cases where the couple marry and divorce this way:

  • Couples who do not want a Jewish wedding – specifically a Jewish couple who do not wish to use the rabbinate to formalize their marriage and marry in a civil ceremony abroad.
  • New Olim or “old” Olim – specifically Jewish couples who married abroad and made Aliya later.
  • Unacceptable to Jewish marriage – such as bastards, divorced Cohen and others who are forced to marry in a civil ceremony abroad.

It is important to note that regarding the third close (Unacceptable to Jewish marriage), a civil divorce is made possible in the rabbinate only for Jewish couples who are not of the same sex.

Civil divorce – how does the procedure go?

In Israel there are two courts that can rule in the different matters of family, including divorce – the family court and the Rabbinic court. However, the actual divorce and validation of it is done only by the Rabbinic court. For this reason, a civil divorce can have aspects that will be discussed in both courts, but the divorce itself will mostly be given (accept for exceptional cases) in the Rabbinic court, which, as mentioned, is authorized only to rule case of Jewish people. This procedure includes regulating the different subjects that come up when dismantling a marriage (such as wife and child alimony, division of property, visitation, custody etc.) and then filling for divorce. Please note that if the couple is of the same sex, mixed faith (i.e. one is Jewish and one is not) or atheists – even if they were married in a civil ceremony abroad, the Rabbinic court is not authorized to grant a divorce and they have to approach the family court in order to annul the marriage, or do so abroad, in the country they were married.

It is very important to get advice form a family lawyer in any case of divorce, as well as a civil divorce, so as to explore all the possibilities and try to divorce amicably, without disputes, and to start your new life as soon as possible while saving expenses.