The Lebanese legal system is based primarily on the French and Egyptian legal codes. Personal status laws govern matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance and vary according to religious community.
More specifically, Sharia courts have jurisdiction over personal status issues for the Muslim community (separated into Sunni and Shiite hearings), while the different Christian denominations use ecclesiastical courts. There are 18 legally recognized religious groups in Lebanon, the largest are the Sunni Muslims, the Shiite Muslims, and Maronite Christians. Out of those, 15 have separate personal status codes all of which contain discriminatory measures against women 
While there have been efforts on the part of lawmakers to introduce a unified civil status (the most recent of which in 2010), this has so far not met with success.
Civil marriages are recognized in Lebanon if they were contracted outside of the country (Article 25 of decree No. 60/1936), but continue to be governed by the civil law of that country should any legal issues arise. Of note, however, in April of 2013, the first Lebanese couple contracted a civil marriage on Lebanese soil (followed by approximately 10 more couples to date) by removing their religious affiliation from their civil status records, obtaining proof from a mayor that there were no objections to their marriage, and signing a legal marriage contract witnessed by a notary public.
Legal age of marriage
varies across the different personal status codes, but all religious groups allow girls under the age of 18 to marry.
Recognised marriageable ages for women range from as young as 9 among Sunni and Shiite Muslims as long as approval is granted, to 12.5 among member of the Jewish denomination, and 14 years old among the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox. For men, the marriageable age is 18 among most religious groups, although with approval marriages at younger ages are granted as well.
In terms of early marriage
it is, however, no longer customary that young girls marry, and the UN reports that in 2007, only 3.4% of women age 15-19 were married, divorced, or widowed.
In 2013, the United Nations reported an adolescent birth rate of 18 per 1,000 women age 15-19, using data from a 2004 Lebanese Survey.
Women and men are generally free to choose their own marriage partners, but the family usually expects to play a role.
According to a survey carried out by IFES / IWPR in 2009, virtually all respondents felt that young women and men should be free to decide who to marry, but with guidance from their parents.
Inter-religious marriages are also increasingly common in Lebanon, although officially, Muslim women do not have the right to marry non-Muslim men unless they convert, and other sects do not encourage their members to marry outside the faith.
Although some personal status codes assign rights and duties equally to both spouses during married life (e.g. the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox personal codes), the Muslim personal codes designate the husband as the head of the family and assign parental authority
In addition, upon birth, children are assigned to the religious sect of their father.
Among most religious groups, women are granted custody of the children upon divorce
, although in Muslim communities, fathers retain legal authority and decision-making power, even if the mother has physical custody.
In some cases, custody is transferred back to the father when children reach a certain age: for Evangelical Christian sects and Catholics, this is 12 for boys and girls, and for Sunni Muslims, 13 for boys and 15 for girls although courts often grant on-going physical custody to the mother beyond this, if they feel that this is in the child’s best interests.
Most Christian denominations and Islamic Shia consider that divorced mothers who wish to remarry forfeit their custody rights.
laws differ between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islamic law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. Muslim women may inherit from their fathers, mothers, husbands or children and, under, certain conditions, from other family members.
But their share is generally smaller than a man’s entitlement: daughters, for example, typically inherit half as much as sons.
In addition, Muslims cannot leave property to non-Muslims, meaning that non-Muslim women married to Muslim men cannot inherit from their husbands if they die first unless they convert.
While women are legally entitled to inherit land, many women cede this land to their male relatives, in order to ensure that land is retained in the male line.
It should be noted that the Shia
approach to inheritance is more egalitarian as regards female heirs, which leads some Sunni fathers to convert to Shiism when they near death so that their daughters do not have to share their inheritance with their uncles if the parents have no sons. The Civil Law of Inheritance (1959) for non-Muslims establishes that men and women shall be treated equally and receive the same shares of inheritance.
In reality, some families take measures to ensure that male heirs receive more than female heirs.
Like Muslim law, Catholic personal status law prohibits individuals from bequeathing possessions or property to family members of different faiths.
is permissible only among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, following provisions in Sharia law.
Muslim men from these sects are allowed to take up to four wives, provided they can support all wives financially and treat them all fairly and equally.
Under the Muslim personal status codes, it is much easier for men than women to obtain a divorce
, although all divorces must be registered with the court in order to be legally recognised.
Men have the right to repudiate (divorce unilaterally) their wives, whereas women can only apply for a divorce under a certain set of conditions (e.g. the husband’s desertion, or illness) and if bride price was paid upon marriage, it must be refunded.
Catholic sects prohibit divorce, but marriages can be annulled for a wide range of reasons, including domestic violence.
A 2011 collaborative project on the Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa (SWMENA) shows that most women surveyed (89%) felt completely free in deciding how their earnings are used.
When it comes to decision-making over daily household needs, the project reports that younger couples are more likely to share decisions, although generally, as age increases, women take on a more independent role in this realm. More specifically, 61% of married women age 55 and older have the final say over daily household purchases, compared to 51% of married women age 35-54 and 38% of women age 18-34.
The frequency of married women making sole decisions concerning large household purchases similarly increases with age, with 33% of married women 55 or older making such decisions compared to 10% of married women age 18-34 and 20% of women age 35-54.
 Chemali Khalaf (2010) pp.254, 258; UNICEF (2011) p.1  Idem  Chemali Khalaf (2010) pp.251, 258  WoMen Dialogue (2013)  UNICEF (2011) p.2; CEDAW (2006) pp.86-87  UNICEF (2011) p.2; Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.259  United Nations, Population Division (2013); Living Conditions Survey (2007)  United Nations World Fertility Data (2013); Lebanon (2004) Family Health Survey  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.260 IFES/IWPR (n.d. -d) p.10  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.260; CEDAW (2006) p.88  Chemali Khalaf (2010) pp.259; Kte’pi (2013) p.694; UNICEF (2011) p.2  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.259  Kte’pi (2013) p.694; Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.261  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.261  Kte’pi (2013) p.694; Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.262  UNICEF (2011) p.2  Idem  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.265  Idem  UNICEF (2011) p.2  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.265; CEDAW (2006 pp.96-97  IPSnews (2012)  Kte’pi (2013) p.693; CEDAW (2006) p.95  Idem; Idem  Kte’pi (2013) p.693; UNICEF (2011) p.2; Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.260  Idem; Idem; IDem  Chemali Khalaf (2010) p.260; UNICEF (2011) p.2; CEDAW (2006) p.95  SWMENA Project, Lebanon: Control of Financial Assets Topic Brief (2011) p.3  Idem, p.4  Idem, p.5