Common Law Marriage

A common-law couple is defined as two adult partners of any gender, religion or nationality that live together and share financial responsibilities as a family unit without being legally married.  A couple that does not live together or does not share financial responsibilities is not a common-law couple.

In Israel, where there is no civil marriage, common law marriage is an alternative to religious marriage that the couple may not be eligible for or reject for ideological reasons. Since only a man and a woman of the same religion who are both citizens and residents of Israel can have a religious marriage in Israel, common-law marriage provides a legal alternative for gays, lesbians, interfaith and bi-national couples, women denied a divorce, religiously taboo unions, people who are religiously prohibited from marrying, people who don’t meet the religious definition of any faith, and more.

Common-Law marriage is an especially attractive alternative since New Family’s advocacy and litigation has generated judicial interpretations and policy changes that made common law marriage a status virtually equal to marriage. Common law couples might have been married in a civil or religious ceremony that is not recognized by the state-such as a Reform or Conservative Jewish marriage that is not recognized in Israel-or signed a shared living agreement or simply live together without a written agreement.

The growing popularity of common law relationships is part of a global trend. In Europe and North America, marriage rates have steadily declined and more and more couples live together without formal marriage. In Israel, an estimated 180,000 couples live together in common law marriage, 45% of which have anchored their relationship in a legal contract.

Legal Status

Common law relationships are not registered by the Interior Ministry and the personal status of the partners remains ‘single’. Yet. common-law partners can prove their eligibility for status and rights equal to married couples with Domestic Union Cards™ and contractual marriage.

Common law relationships are often anchored in a share living agreement that details the partnership between the two individuals and gives judicial authority to the relationship. Having a legal agreement eases the process by which a couple receives social benefits and clearly establishes the rights and obligations within the relationship and for its dissolution in the event of separation.

Description: and Rights

Common law couples have virtually the same rights and obligations as married couples. These include the right to pension funds of a deceased partner and the obligations to share mutual assets accumulated during the relationship. Couples can choose a mutual name simply by filling out the Name Change Application Form in the Interior Ministry.


Children born to a common-law couple have the same legal rights and status as a child of married parents. Their status is equal in custody matters, alimony, inheritance questions and in the Rabbinical Court. The child can carry the mother’s or the father’s family name or both. A woman with children living with a common-law spouse is not considered a single parent and is therefore not entitled to the National Insurance benefits granted to single mothers.


The state is not involved in ending a common law relationship. In the event of separation, the principles that were set in the couple’s share living agreement are enacted. If no such agreement exists, the couple can turn to court to settle the conditions of the separation, such as division of property, custody of children, and other issues. New Family recommends that common-law as well as married couples make shared living or prenuptial agreements that specify the principles of their shared lives together, including provisions for separation.


Any two adults can form a common law couple.  Thanks to New Family’s judicial activism, legal recognition of the rights of same-sex couples in Israel has advanced considerably. Same-sex couples are eligible for equal recognition in common-law partnership, pensions, tax benefits, parenting (‘maternity’) leave, child allowances, survivors benefits, and more.

A widow or widower that lives with a common-law spouse but has not remarried usually continues to receive full compensations and pensions following the death of their partner. Common law spouses are not considered partners for income tax calculations, which can result in financial benefits if the partners are running a business together.


Not all benefits are automatically awarded to common-law couples. Women in common-law relationships are not exempt from army service, and the process of receiving residency status for a foreign common-law spouse is lengthier than for a foreign married spouse. Only married couples gain tax benefits if one of the partners does not work due to pension age or disability.