A divorced father recently got a taste of the unique justice meted out by Israel's secular family courts when he was ordered to pay child support to his ex-wife despite the fact that the former couple's children reside almost exclusively with the father.
According to Attorney Inbar Lev, who represents the father, the couple divorced at the request of the wife, who moved in with her mother. Lev claims that the wife severed her contact with the children almost completely, and that the children chose to live with their father.
Despite this, the wife sued for joint physical custody over the children and for child support – a demand that Lev called “unreasonable,” because “it enables the mother to continue to live at the father's expense without justification.”
Judge Yehezkel Eliyahu explained in his decision that he was granting the mother's request for joint custody and specifying a parenting schedule “in order to strengthen the bond between the children and their mother,” and that as a result of this, the father must pay the mother child support.
'A desire of the heart'
Lev claimed that the father cannot force his children to be with their mother and that they are the ones who decided to see very little of her. Therefore, she said, the court-ordered parenting schedule “is no more than a desire of the heart and certainly is implemented in reality.”
She added that in the absurd situation that has resulted, the father is paying the mother child support, supposedly for the children, while at the same time paying in full for their livelihood. She demanded that the child support payments cease and that the father be reimbursed for funds already paid. In addition, she demanded that the state child allowance, which is currently paid completely to the mother, be transferred to the father.
The Northern District Court is expected to discuss the appeal filed by the father soon.
According to Jewish law (Halacha), only the father is obligated to pay for his children's expenses. However, Jewish law also gives the father advantages over the mother in division of property, and determines that boys over the age of six will be in their father's care, while girls usually remain with their mother. Halacha also gives men more rights than women in inheritance, yet determines that a man divorcing his wife must pay her a sum specified when they were wed, in a document called the ketubah. Thus, a balance is achieved between the unequal rights and obligations of men and women.
However, modern secular courts in Israel have done away with the advantages and rights that Halacha gives Jewish fathers and men – while still saddling them with their exclusive obligations, and even widening these further. Thus, in the secular courts, children of both sexes and all ages go automatically to the mother's physical custody.
Even if the father is awarded equal parenting time as the mother, “his” days are usually called “visitation” while the mother is deemed to be the custodian. This is perceived as justifying the flow of child support to the mother.
There is no limit to how much of a father's earnings can be taken for child support, and even disability allowances are routinely garnished to this end.
At the same time, all male advantages in property division have been done away with in the name of equality.
Governmental committees that were set up to try and determine more egalitarian rules regarding custody and child support have met stiff opposition from women's groups, which have torpedoed them for years on end.