Alimony In Common-Law Relationships

The legal outline for awarding alimony between common law partners is based on the laws of contract and on the principle of good faith, which is a fundamental principle in Israeli law.The duty to pay alimony can be imposed by virtue of an express agreement between the parties and in the absence of an express agreement, an arrangement derived from the principle of good faith will apply. The good faith is derived from the parties’ consent to a relationship of common law partners.

It should be noted, that the use of the word “maintenance” or “alimony” in the context of common law partners is not identical to the use made of it in the context of maintenance under the personal law between married couples.Between common law partners we refer to “civil” maintenance, constituting the contents of the unwritten agreement between the parties concerning the financial support by one partner of the other, the purpose of which is to secure the partner’s standard of living and to allow his/her rehabilitation after the physical separation between the parties. Accordingly it is also referred to as “rehabilitative maintenance”.

As clarified above, one of the key differences between common law partners and married spouses is the manner of dissolving the relationship.While to dissolve the relationship between married spouses, a proceeding of a formal divorce is required, between common law partners, an interested party can terminate the relationship unilaterally and immediately by way of a physical separation.In the case of common law partners whose relationship was based on economic dependency, immediate termination of the economic commitment with the deterioration of the relationship will adversely affect the partner who is economically dependent on the other partner.Things get even worse where both partners reside in an apartment owned by the supporting partner, since in such a situation, the supported partner is likely to find himself/herself without a roof over his/her head immediately.
It is against this state of affairs that the Supreme Court’s case law instructed, that deriving from considerations of good faith, fairness, protection of weak parties and protection of the interest of reliance of the economically supported partner, even where there is no express agreement between the common law partners, there lies an obligation of the character of rehabilitative maintenance between common law partners.

It should be noted that the determination of the extent of the duty of maintenance, in terms of the amount, the length of the period in respect of which it is awarded and in terms of grounds denying the maintenance, is dependent on the special circumstances of each and every case.