Rabbinate ruling is 'a revolution in divorce law'

Prominent divorce attorney: complete equality between men and women in child support is just a matter of time.

Attorney Yossi Hershkowitz ,

Attorney Yossi Hershkowitz
Attorney Yossi Hershkowitz
Attorney Hershkowitz's office

The Chief Rabbinate's recent decision that Rabbinical Courts must take women's earnings into account in divorce cases heralds a quiet revolution, and a change in the basic conceptions on the Rabbinical Courts.

In Israel, rulings on child support for Jewish couples are made in accordance with Halakha, or Jewish law. This is true of cases that come before the civil Family Courts, and doubly so in cases that come before the Rabbinical Courts.

In classic Halakha, sole responsibility for child support – in accordance with their age – fell on the father. Therefore, the Rabbinical Courts – and as a result, the Family Courts, too – looked only at the father's income and financial abilities. The mother's income and financial abilities were completely disregarded at first, and this often caused a feeling of injustice, or even discrimination.

In recent years, the Family Courts began to steer away from this strict Halakhic principle, and gradually, in several rulings, began to look at the mother's income and financial ability as well. The courts tried in every which way to insert principles of equality into the matter of child support, although as noted, they could not properly do so, because they too were bound by Jewish Halakha which did not make the mother responsible for child support.

Thus, the courts led a revolution in the basic principles, a revolution that can be said to have led to the revolution in the Chief Rabbinate's instructions as well.

And today, following the Chief Rabbinate's latest decision, the courts' revolution can be said to have filtered into Halakha itself, and is on its way to being completed.

We believe that equality in principle between the sexes is turning into equality in reality. It is certainly proper and just that in the age we live in, which is one of gender equality, the equality will manifest itself in both rights and obligations.

We believe that the principle of equality between father and mother in child support payment is a just one.

It needs to be stressed that even now, after the Chief Rabbinate's decision, the guiding principle in both the Family Courts and the Rabbinical Courts is still that the obligation for the basic child support falls upon the father alone. However, the revolution that has begun its march will, without a doubt, lead to equality de facto, and we believe that the day is not far off in which child support will be meted out based upon a completely egalitarian and just principle.

We do not see this as a change in favor of one of the sexes but as a positive change that will lead to gender equality and to just solutions in child support disputes.

Attorney Yossi Hershkowitz is a prominent expert on divorce law