Child Support According to Jewish Law
Child support (hereby: “alimony”) is the obligation of the parents towards their minor children, and sometimes even their adult children. Parents can come to an agreement in regards to payment of alimony (within the framework of agreements, for example: “divorce”, “joint parenting”, “joint life”. In the event that they do not reach an agreement, the court will decide the amount of alimony that each parent must pay. In this article, we will discuss the parental obligation of child support according to Jewish law.
The law that settles the issue of child support in Israel is the Family Law Amendment (Child Support), 1959 (hereby: “the law”). The law states as follows:
- A person will be obligated to pay alimony in accordance with the religious law that applies to him.
- In the event that the religious law exempts him from paying child support or he is not a member of one of the recognized religious communities, the provisions of the law will apply to him (civil child support).
From the wording of the law, we find that an Israeli citizen is obligated to pay alimony according to his religious law, meaning that Jews are obligated to pay alimony according to Jewish law. Only in the instance when the Jewish law exempts them from paying alimony do the provisions of the law apply (civil child support).
Child Support According to Jewish Law
Jewish law divides alimony into different types, delineated below:
- Essential Needs
The most basic needs that the children requires: food, clothing, shoes, and housing. These are the minimum, even in terms of the cost of each one of these needs.
In regards to these needs, the financially capability of the parents is not always taken int account (as will be expanded upon later).
- Non-Essential Needs
Needs that are beyond the essential minimum, so as to provide the child with the same quality of life to which he has become accustomed or the quality of life that he deserves.
In regards to these needs, the financial ability of the parents is always taken into account.
After dividing the different types of alimony that the parents are obligated to pay for their children, Jewish law divides the alimony into different age groups. Below are the details of the different age groups and the extent to which each of the parents is obligated to them:
- Children from Ages 0-6
Essential Needs: The obligation of the father is absolute, he must pay alimony regardless of his financial capability, and the mother is exempt from this alimony (Kahn v. Kahn).
Non-Essential Needs: The obligation is on both of the parents.
This is an obligation from a law of “justice”, that is, we consider the financial capability of the parents through their sources of income and their ability to provide for themselves, only the extent that they are able to also give to the children.
- Children from Ages 6-15
Until very recently, the obligation to provide for the essential needs was absolutely incumbent upon the father (just like from ages 0-6).
Following a precedent setting ruling by the Supreme Court (Case No. 919/15 Anonymous v. Anonymous), it was stated that the obligation was from a law of “justice” about the essential and non-essential needs. That is, the obligation for the essential needs applies to both of the parents with consideration to their financial capabilities, including their various sources of income.
In the same ruling it speaks about shared custody, but even when the custody is not shared, the obligation is a law of justice.
- Children from Ages 15-18
The obligation is from a law of justice and applies to both of the parents in accordance with their financial capability (Portuguez vs. Portuguez)
- Children Serving in the Military
Since there is mandatory military service in Israel, it is assumed that the child’s financial dependence on the parents continues until the end of the military service. The amount of alimony will usually be 1/3 of the amount paid by the parent for the child until age 18 (4480/93 Anonymous vs. Anonymous).
- Adult Children
The provisions in Section 5 of the law will apply [link to the law and civil child support]
Who Has the Authority to Rule on Child Support?
The authority to rule on alimony is normally under the sole jurisdiction of the family court, nevertheless there may be occasions when the authority also belongs to the rabbinical court, as will be explained below:
- When alimony is “involved” in the divorce claim (Section 3 of the Rabbinical Court Judgment Law [marriage and divorce], 1953).
This is concerning alimony of “restoring expenses” up until that same point in time, and not about future alimony (Shragai vs. Shragai).
- Future alimony (from now on) will be ruled on after all the parties concerned agree to come to the rabbinical court (Section 9 of the Rabbinical Court Judgment Law [marriage and divorce], 1953).
In the latest ruling on case 7628/17 Anonymous vs. Anonymous, the Supreme Court reiterated that the decision on the Shragai case is still firm and valid. The rabbinical court has the authority to decide only about “restoring expenses” in alimony, but in everything relating to “future alimony” it will have the authority to rule on it only with the agreement of all parties.
Is it Possible to Change the Amount of Alimony After a Ruling has been Given?
Is it possible to reopen the issue of alimony after an agreement between the parents has been approved? Yes, there are two ways to open the matter of alimony as described below:
- Regular Claim to Change the Amount of Alimony by One of the Parents
This is an exceptional circumstance, since the agreement was approved, and this is a “court action,” which is why it is up to the applicant to show a fundamental change in circumstances in order to bring about a change in alimony.
- Independent Claim of the Minor
Throughout the years the minor’s “independent claim institution” has continued to develop.
There is a concern that because most of the claims are situations of divorce, because of the legal struggle between the parents that the best interest of the minor will be damaged.
Therefore, the minor can—through his guardian (one of his parents)—can file an alimony claim to the family court.
The Substantive Examination of a Minor’s Independent Claim for Child Support
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling (Anonymous vs. The Great Rabbinical Court), it was decided that in the independent claim of a minor the “substantive examination” would be applied in order to reopen the case of alimony. This examination is an incremental two-stage process, which is listed below:
- Has the court that approved the agreement, including the alimony, held a substantive discussion on the matter of alimony?
The starting point is that the court must deliberate about the approval of the agreement, whether or not the minor’s needs can be met, and it does not approve an agreement that would not benefit the minor.
- If the minor is indeed being deprived of the amount of alimony that he was granted, the court will examine the age of the minor, his needs, and the income of the parents, and as long as the minor is not found to be deprived, the issue of alimony will not be opened.
In the case when there is a fundamental deprivation of the alimony granted to the minor, the court will reexamine the matter of alimony in both the independent claim as well as the regular claim route.
Interested in Settling Child Support? The Offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh are at Your Service
At the law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh you will encounter lawyers who are experts in family law and who are authorized mediators. Our lawyers will help you settle the matter of child support through various agreements (divorce/joint life/joint parenting), so that the best interest of your children will be safeguarded both now and in the future.