(Apr. 9, 2010) On March 15, 2010, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed a law authorizing the registration of spousal agreements. The law was designed to enable the portion of the population that does not belong to any recognized religion, estimated as 300,000 residents, to marry. Israeli law recognizes marriage and divorce only in accordance with the personal status of couples belonging to the recognized Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and various Christian religious communities.
The new law authorizes the appointment of a registrar of spousal agreements. The registrar may register spousal agreements entered into by their free will by Israeli residents, 18 years or older, who are registered at the population registry as not belonging to any religion and who are not relatives and are not registered as married under either Israeli or foreign registry.
The law provides family courts the exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate matters arising in connection with application of the law, except for the determination that a person does not belong to a religion. The law provides a procedure for ending spousal agreements by mutual consent or by a determination by the family court in the absence of such consent.
Spouses registered in the registry of spousal agreements are treated as married couples for the purposes of application of any other law, except immigration law. For the purpose of application of laws regarding adoption and surrogacy motherhood, such spouses will be treated as married couples only at the expiration of 18 months from the day they were officially registered.
The law specifically clarifies that its provisions do not affect the law of marriage and divorce that applies in Israel, nor do they affect the jurisdiction of the religious courts. (The Law on Spousal Agreements for Persons Without a Religion, 5760-2010, the Knesset website, http://www.knesset.gov.il/privatelaw/data/18/3/445_3_1.rtf, & the bill of that law, http://www.knesset.gov.il/Laws/Data/BillGoverment/445/445.pdf (both last visited Apr. 9, 2010).)