Jewish Law imposes on every father an absolute duty to maintain his children until they reach the age of 18. This duty has been extended by case law until the age of discharge from regular military service or until the child turns 21 (or 20 for a girl), in light of the realities of life of youth in Israel. However, in the course of military duty, the father bears one third of the level of maintenance which he bore when the children were minors.
The issue of child support is under concurrent jurisdiction, therefore, one may sue for the support of minor children in the Family Affairs Court or at the Rabbinical Court, and both will adjudicate according to the same laws.
As a rule, the law gives the minor an independent right of action for his maintenance before the Family Affairs Court, by means of one of his parents or a guardian. In practice, the action for child support is filed by the mother, since a father is not entitled to child support for his minor children.
If a couple reach an agreement relating to the rate of child support, it must be presented to the court for approval, and the court’s function is to ensure that the child support has been properly and suitably considered throughout the agreement and the proceedings which preceded it. If the court is not persuaded of that fact, the minor will not be bound by the agreement signed by his parents. If the court finds that the rate of child support stipulated by the agreement was fixed following a substantive review of the minor’s needs, then the court will deem the child’s action as an action for increased child support (see the entry on “Increasing or decreasing child support”).
The father’s duty to provide for his children is an absolute duty. Which means, that the father is bound by a duty disregarding his income or financial ability, and on the other hand, ignoring the child’s mother’s income and financial ability.
Child Support for necessities: the minor’s needs which do not require proof, being necessary to maintain daily life. Inter alia: food, clothing, footwear, etc.
Case law has determined that the level of child support on account of necessities which do not require proof is 1,150 NIS per month (In re Ben-Ami). It is noted, that this amount does not include special costs of education and healthcare, and spending on kindergarten and/or nannies. Moreover, this sum does not include monies for board, to which the minor is entitled for his residence and its upkeep.
Child Support for the Necessities of the Particular Minor: In addition to payment of child support that does not require proof, the court or Rabbinical Court with whom the action is filed will examine the specific necessities of the particular minor whose case is before the tribunal. Thus, for instance, if a child suffers from a learning disability, the father can be charged to pay for the costs derived therefrom.
Child Support by Law of Charity: Child support above and beyond the minor’s necessities, awarded under Jewish Law once the minor reaches the age of 15. For the purposes of calculating the Child Support by Law of Charity, the father’s income is taken into account, and the mother’s income may also be considered. Under this category one may group: games, expenses of recreational activities, etc.
In recent years, claims directed at the inequality of the burden of child support have been raised, which applies as it does fully to the father, without taking into account the mother’s financial ability and income. Owing to this, a trend is beginning to emerge at the Family Affairs Court, minimising the criteria for “Necessities” and extending the expenses considered Child Support by Law of Charity, with the aim of mitigating the inequality of the burden of child support as between the two parents.
Costs of board are considered part of the child’s maintenance, paid to him or her for the costs of his residence and the expenses ancillary thereto. Inter alia, the following expenses are counted as part of the costs of board: rent/mortgage repayments, municipal taxes, and current payments necessary to maintain the residence (electricity, water, condominium committee fees, internet, cleaning, etc.).
The costs of board will be calculated in accordance with the number of minors living under the same roof: for a single minor, the father will bear approximately one third of the board; for two minors – approximately 40%; and for three minors approximately 50%.
As part of child support, the minor is entitled to participation in the costs of special education and special healthcare. The special healthcare costs, are expenses which are not included in the health basket: dental care, psychological treatment, experts’ reports, the costs of corrective vision glasses, etc.
Similarly, the costs of special education needs, are expenses spent on learning needs, after school activities, private tuition, a school uniform, summer camps, etc.
Contrary to the child support paid for the minor’s necessities and imposed absolutely on the father, as a rule, in any instance of special education and special healthcare, the payment is divided equally between the parents, except if the court rules otherwise.
In addition to a father’s duty to pay for day-care and/or kindergarten for the minor, the father is also bound to pay for after school care as part of the minor’s child support. The payment is awarded to the mother or the nanny employed on her behalf to care for the minor during the hours in which s/he is not at the educational establishment. The after school care monies are determined in accordance with the circumstances and the child’s age. The courts recognises the fact that an infant needs more care than a toddler, or a child who goes to school, and tend to award this component accordingly.
If the father fails to comply with the court’s ruling or judgement regarding child support, the mother’s faces two alternatives to collect the child support:
Collection by means of the Bureau of Effectuation of Judgements: To proceed via this track, the mother must open a file against the father with the Effectuation of Judgements Bureau. Currently, owing to the importance of minors’ child support payments, the law makes these proceedings easier, and facilitates exercising operational proceedings in an easier manner, such as: attachment orders, arrest warrants, and stay of exit from the country against the party liable for child support. Moreover, a child support case is not included in the proceedings for unification of files or receiverships, and is updated every month by the rate of child support awarded, plus linkage differentials and interest.
The disadvantage of these proceedings is that if the father has no income or property, the ability to impose a sanction is limited. Similarly, the effectiveness of the proceedings decreases if the father does not fear an arrest warrant and/or a stay of exit from the country. In such instances, it is possible that it would be more advisable to collect the child support monies from the National Insurance Institute.
This alternative is preferable to collecting via the Effectuation of Judgements Bureau, since the mother is exempt from the attempt to collect the child support monies every month. In this way, the mother receives a fixed monthly sum paid as a stipend from the National Insurance Institute, and the Institute acts to exhaust collection proceedings vis-à-vis the father.
The disadvantage of this alternative, is that the mother is not paid the full sum awarded on account of child support, but rather a sum to which she is entitled in accordance with a rate set by the National Insurance Institute. However, the mother can appeal to the Bureau of Effectuation of Judgements and open a file on account of the difference between the child support which the father is liable for, and the stipend paid by the National Insurance Institute.