Court (illustrative)
Court (illustrative) Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Tel Aviv judge has ruled that a father from Rehovot does not need to pay child support – setting a precedent that could change child support arrangements for many divorced parents.

Judge Yoram Shaked ruled that the father in question does not need to pay support because he shares custody of his children with his ex-wife, and because she has a higher income and more disposable income than he does. Were the father to pay support, he would need to pay only 300 shekels a month, Shaked found – a finding that led him to decide to waive the obligation to pay altogether.

Attorney Aviv Harel explained the significant of the verdict. “Until today, most judges set minimum child support payments for Jewish fathers that stood at 1,350 shekels per month per child or more,” he said.

“This revolutionary verdict is very good news for divorced fathers, but much less good for divorced mothers in Israel,” he noted.

Courts normally look at two aspects of child support, Harel explained. The first is “essential support,” which includes the cost of food, clothing, housing and healthcare. Fathers are automatically viewed as responsible for paying for “essential support,” regardless of their income, he said.

The second aspect includes “extras” such as vacations, entertainment, and extra-curricular activities. These costs are normally split by divorced parents based on their respective incomes.

Judges usually rule that fathers who share equal custody of their children with the children’s mother must pay 75% of the cost of raising the children, Harel said, while fathers who do not have custody at all must pay 100% support.

In the case in question, the divorced parents share custody of the children. The mother earns more than 18,000 shekels a month and owns a home, while the father earns over 13,000 shekels a month and rents his home. The mother had sued for over 13,000 shekels a month in child support, arguing that she bears primary responsibility for the children and so deserves financial support.

The court found that because the children are with their father half of the time, he is essentially already paying half the cost of “essential support.” The mother, who has significantly more disposable income than her ex-spouse, should legally pay proportionally more for “extras,” Shaked ruled.

Therefore, the father’s obligation to pay 100% of “essential support” is balanced out by the mother’s responsibility to pay proportionally more for “extras,” he said, and the arrangement the two currently have in which neither party pays support to the other is just.

“In light of the tiny sum that the father would be giving the mother, and in light of the fact that in effect the children spend more than half of their time with the father, I saw fit not to obligate the father to give the mother any payment. So the two parents will continue to equally share the costs,” he wrote.

Attorney Harel said the verdict joins several others that indicate a trend toward splitting custody and child support equally in divorce cases.

The case could lead to a reduction in the amount some divorced fathers must pay in child support, he said. However, he noted, the situation in question, in which the mother both earns more than the father and owns a home while he does not, is relatively uncommon.  

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