Report shows link between divorce, poverty rates

Israeli nonprofit turns to Welfare Minister, requests change in divorce Israeli policy.

Ido Ben Porat,

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istock

The Israeli Haim Shel Tova non-profit organization, which deals with the financial and emotional crises caused by divorce, believes there is a direct connection between divorce rates and a country's poverty rates.

In a letter sent by Haim Shel Tova CEO Rabbi Natan Shalev to Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud), Rabbi Shalev calls on Katz to change policies surrounding how divorce cases are handled in Israel, and to place an emphasis on preventing divorce by subsidizing marriage and family counseling.

"According to the 2015 poverty report, which was published last week, one out of every five single-parent families lives below the poverty line. If it weren't for government aid, two out of every five single-parent families would be below the poverty line," Rabbi Shalev explained, emphasizing the enormous sums of money Israel spends in order to help single-parent families make ends meet.

He also suggested the government divert a small portion of these funds to preventive measures, explaining a lower divorce rate would ultimately save the government money, as well as prevent families - especially children - from unnecessary suffering. He noted that children whose parents are divorced are ultimately more likely to get divorced themselves.

"Even if the divorce process is done calmly and with mutual respect, breaking apart a family is incredibly difficult to deal with. It's almost as if a family member died. The consequences for the children include various emotional problems, depression, and lowered academic achievements. And these problems continue as they mature: Adults whose parents divorced when they were children earn less money than those who grew up with married parents. They also have more difficulty maintaining relationships, and tend to divorce more often than others. And the tragedy of divorce is passed to the next generation," he said.

"We need to understand that the divorce rates are one of the causes of poverty. And if we don't do something about it, it will just snowball and get worse," warned Rabbi Shalev.

"It's not a decree from Heaven which can't be changed," he added.

"In the framework of Haim Shel Tova's activities, we see clearly how problems in these couples' relationships began early on, and got worse over the years. If they had done a marriage enrichment class, or counseling, in most cases all their suffering could have been prevented."

Rabbi Shalev also said Israel's welfare system deals only with a small portion of the difficulties, and deals not at all with prevention - even though preventive measures cost only a fraction of the amount.

"We are convinced there needs to be an existential change in everything surrounding divorce and how the government helps families deal with the consequences of divorce," he said. "We need to deal with the root of the problem, to prevent families from breaking apart and to lessen the number of children affected by divorce. This requires making marriage counseling more accessible, and expanding the existing programs. As well, we need to offer classes to youth, before they begin thinking about marriage and during the first few years of marriage."




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