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Civil Marriage – the Legal Implications

There are times when a couple might not want to marry via the Rabbinic establishment and there are cases where it is impossible for the couple to do so. These couples have the option to marry in a civil ceremony, in this article I'll discuss the legal implications of such a marriage.

What is a civil marriage and who is it meant for?

Couples can marry in a religious ceremony and register as married in the Rabbanut or they can marry in a civil ceremony abroad (In Israel one cannot marry in a civil ceremony). The procedure is quite simple – the couple go abroad to a country where one can marry in a civil ceremony (such as Greece or Cyprus), go through the ceremony and return to Israel with a formal certificate showing they are married. This option is suitable manly for two categories:
  • Couples who do not want to marry through the religious establishment – do not want to be registered in the Rabbanut or have any religious ceremony for their marriage.
  • Forbidden to marry – the Rabbanut is forbidden to marry couples who are defined as forbidden such as mixed religion couples, bastards etc

Is this a married couple for all intents and purposes?

After the couple return to Israel with the certificate of marriage they need to go to the ministry of Intern and register as a married couple. From then onwards, all the rights that a couple who married through the Rabbanut get, are given to this couple, be it taxation, pension and inheritance. This being said, in cases where the couple, who married in a civil ceremony, divorce, they will have to go through the Rabbanut due to the fact that in Israel, one can get an actual divorce only at the Rabbinic court. Wife alimony, child alimony, visitation rights and all other matters connected to the divorce will be valid and withstand as if the couple married via the Rabanut.In this context, it is important to mention the delicate subject of people who are forbidden to marry, who did marry in a civil ceremony and cannot divorce in the Rabbinic court. In cases as just described one should appeal to the family court to annul the marriage.It is also important to emphasis that alternative marriage ceremonies held in Israel are not recognized as civil marriage, the same goes for marriage via correspondence, where one gets marriage certificates in the mail, without physically being in the country. Such couples are not recognized legally married but could be recognized as common-law couples and will receive similar rights as "regular" coupes who married in a religious ceremony. a

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