Triger on Civil Marriage and Non-Marital Cohabitation in Israeli Rabbinical Courts

Zvi H. Triger (U. of Alabama School of Law) has posted Freedom from Religion in Israel: Civil Marriage and Non-Marital Cohabitation of Israeli Jews Go to the Rabbinical Court. The abstract follows.

The only form of marriage that is recognized under Israeli law is religious marriage. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 1963 Funk Schlesinger case, Israeli authorities must register couples who got married abroad as married. Many couples who wish to avoid the religious monopoly on marriage and divorce choose this rout. However, they are utterly wrong in thinking that they achieve freedom from religion by doing so.

In a 2006 landmark decision the Supreme Court held that the rabbinical court system has jurisdiction over the divorce of couples who got married in civil marriages abroad. While they do not need to have a full religious get procedure, the rabbinical court has exclusive jurisdiction over the dissolution of civil marriages of Jews. The Court’s decision was based on halachic principles, and was pre-approved by a panel of the rabbinical court.

However, rabbinical courts have been ignoring the Supreme Court’s injunction concerning the application of a speedier, more liberal divorce procedure in the dissolution of civil marriages, and they insist on performing a full Jewish get procedure. This article presents this trend, analyzes this phenomenon and offers tentative and preliminary speculations as to the reasons for and the direction of these developments.

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