The legal guide to Alimony

Payment of alimony is the responsibility of the father, by the law of personal-religion. That being said, in Israel the law requires that the father pay even in cases where the personal-religion law is not relevant. In addition, payment of alimony can be ruled by force of personal commitment (in special cases). This raises questions: what is alimony? When do you need to pay it? Who has to pay it and in what cases? These questions will receive an answer below.

The law regarding marriage and divorce in Israel

One cannot really understand the concept of alimony without first understanding a bit about the law regarding marriage and divorce in Israel because the requirement to pay alimony is driven form the las of marriage and divorce. Even before the establishment of the state of Israel the British mandate law was enforced, but with some changes.

When it comes to marriage and divorce the “King’s Council” law was implemented. This law enabled the different religious sects in Israel freedom of action. Thus, there were religious courts active here before the establishment of the state of Israel and they had the authority to rule in matters of divorce, each for their own sect.

After the establishment of the state of Israel, the Knesset in 1953 legislated the Rabbinical Courts Jurisdiction (marriage and divorce) law 5713-1953. This law stated that in any matter regarding marriage and divorce in Israel between Jewish people, the persona- religious law will apply. This, in fact, is no different than the law that was used before the establishment of the state of Israel but it but was made official. As for all the other religions, the “king’s council’s” law is still valid so there are Shari courts that rule in matters of marriage and divorce between Muslims and Christian and Druze courts too. Form this we derive that if a Jewish couple wants to marry in Israel, they have to do so according to their personal- religion. This means that they cannot marry in a civil ceremony by law. For example, if a Jewish man and a non-Jewish woman want to marry, they cannot do so in Israel. Moreover, even Jews who are not recognized as Jews (new Olim who can’t prove they are Jewish) or Jews who are not permitted to marry by Jewish law (such as a Cohen and a divorcee), or same-sex couples cannot marry legally in Israel.

To elaborate: the Jewish personal-religious law states that the obligation to pay child alimony is on the father and he has to pay wife alimony too until they are officially divorced. Non-Jewish spouses have to pay alimony too, but by the power of the Shari and Christian law. In this article I shall focus on the Jewish law.

What is alimony?

As mentioned, by Jewish law (if applicable) the father has to pay alimony. This payment is for the provision of the father’s children and for supporting the wife. The reason for these payments is a moral and social reason where no child should be left without support, clothing and food. The same goes for the wife. The father is obliged to pay for each of his children. The Alimony payments will ensure that the wife and children have a reasonable standard of living, even after the separation of the couple, when the family unit is not whole.

Child alimony is paid in a differential manner, i.e. the rate changes at different ages. Alimony payments are made until the end of the child’s army service (or National Civilian Service).

How much alimony is paid for one child?

Minimal alimony per child rates between 1,300NIS-1,400NIS per month. But, the more the father’s income is higher, the higher the alimony, in accordance to the child’s needs and the father’s ability. It is important to note that the alimony payments are calculated according to an alimony-index, so could change or be updated form time to time.

Till what age of the child is one obliged to pay alimony?

The above question is one of the most common ones asked. It is of great importance, especially to the father, who is burdened with a large sum of money that needs to be paid. As mentioned, the obligation to pay is absolute and there are hardly no exceptions (only in one specific case which will be discussed later). The sum of money paid changes at different ages. The explanations below refer to one child:

Up to the age of 6 years – the obligation to pay is absolute. These years on a child’s life are critical and the support is more than necessary.

From the age of 6 up to 15 – as the above, the obligation is absolute. However, the obligation is by the force of Tzedaka. According to the Jewish law the father has to pay for the necessities, i.e. housing, education, food, clothing etc., and the non-basic needs such as extra classes (Hugim), holidays, etc. are to be paid by both parents, according to their income.

From the age of 15 up to 18 – the father is obliged to pay by the force of Tzedaka. This means that the father will pay according to his income (and the mother’s income) and not an absolute sum as in younger ages.
After the age of 18 – the father is obliged to pay a reduced sum, usually a third of the original sum, until the end of the child’s army service (or National Civilian Service).

Calculation of alimony:

One of the first questions asked is how the alimony is calculated. The answer is quite simple, there is a calculator, which is also used by the courts. This calculator will take in to account a number of factors such as: the child’s age, the parents income, the amount of days the father spends with the child, how many common children the couple have, the child activities (for example: does the child play a musical instrument, do regular sport), etc.

One can use a free calculator in the internet however it is best to be weary of them since each case is individual. Moreover, the parties have the right to file claims regarding the amount to be paid. Please also be reminded that the payments are linked to the index so could change or be updated. It is best to get advice form a lawyer who deals in family law.

Where do you file for alimony?

Filing for alimony can be done at the Rabbinic court since it has the authority to rule in matters of marriage and divorce, also including filing for custody, alimony, domestic peace etc. this being said, the family court also has authority to rule in the matter of alimony. Please note: filing for alimony is a legal case. The parties will be questioned and cross-examined, statements of claim should be submitted etc. In addition, filing for alimony is the central or prime claim. While filing for alimony you can file for temporary alimony. A decision regarding temporary alimony obliges the father to pay a certain sum, until the court will decide regarding the permanent alimony and give a ruling. One can also file for reduction of alimony payments – when circumstances change (for example: if the children move in with the father or move to bearding school).

What is an alimony agreement?

While finalizing the divorce, a couple can choose one of two ways. The first is to file for divorce and for alimony. As mentioned, divorce can be filed only in the Rabbinic court and alimony can be file for in both Rabbinic and family courts. It is obvious that the way might take a long time, cause anger and abhorrence which will, in turn, cause serious harm to the lives of the couple and their children. The second way is to sign a divorce agreement which will include the alimony, or just refer to the alimony itself.
This agreement is made between the parents regarding the amount of alimony paid, when it will be paid, accord regarding other expenses paid by the father and other subjects too. This being said, it is important to note that the children are not bound by this agreement. They can, if they so wish, file an independent claim for child alimony which could be retroactive. In divorce agreements there is usually some sort of “defense mechanism “, where the mother will compensate the father, if the children do decide to claim on their own account. There are way to avoid this last claim. It is important to note that the alimony agreement need to be authorized by court. This agreement should deal solely with alimony and not any other issues. My recommendation is to consult with a lawyer since this agreement is complex.

What is the legal position when there is joint custody?

Payment of alimony when there is joint custody is a different case. There are fathers who claim for joint custody thinking that this will ease the load of payments. This line of thought is correct since, in joint custody, the alimony payments are reduced by 50%.

Joint custody, as implied by its name, is where both parents take permanent and constant responsibility for their common children. This is not the same as visitation rights, where one parent is the custodial one, and the other gets visitation rights and sees the children in regular times, usually one in the middle of the week and once every other weekend. The non-custodial parent has responsibility for the children only during the time he/she is with them. The benefit of having joint custody is, as mentioned, reduction of the sum of alimony, not to mention a greater chance to take a part and be involved in your children’s lives. The disadvantage of joint custody is that the father might have more responsibility than he can bare, or that the mother would have wanted him to have. This issue is very complex and should be addressed in a separate article.

When can you revoke alimony form children?

Alimony can be revoked from children if they refuse to be in contact with their father. This is not a common option since the court acknowledges that the child is not mature enough to understand the long term consequences of his/her behavior and dis-connection form the father. However, the Jewish law will recognize the possibility of revoking the alimony from the child, is one specific case – a rebellious child. A rebellious child is one who behaves in an inappropriate and defiant manner towards the father, so much so that it would be unjust to impose payment of alimony on the father.

That being said, it is not sufficient that the father claim to court that his child is not willing to be on contact with him. The father has to prove that the child’s behavior is constant, unworthy and that the father really and honestly wants to be in contact with the child, as opposed to the child’s wishes. In order to revoke the alimony from a child, in cases of a “rebellious child”, the court will examine the following: did the father make an effort to be in contact with the child, is the father responsible for the lack of contact between them, is there a possibility to bring the father and the child closer, will the child be able to lead a welfare style of life if the father receives an exemption from paying alimony? Theoretically, it seems as if these rules are easy to follow but reality proves the opposite since most courts do not exempt the father from paying alimony.

The obligation to pay when one hasn’t a personal-religion

The obligation to pay alimony is absolute and is derived from the personal-religion law that applies to the father. This law exists in the Moslem-Sharia and the Christian law too. But, what happens when the father has no personal religion? A non-religious or atheist father? The legislators thought about this possibility and legislated that a father without a personal-religion will pay alimony by force of the Family Law Amendment (alimony), 5719-1959. The law states that, if the parents cannot reach an agreement, the amount of alimony paid will be decided by the court taking in to account the father’s financial abilities. The law mentioned also relates to wife alimony (more below), therefore, any man has to pay alimony even if he has no persona-religions state.

Alimony between same-sex couples

Theoretically, same-sex couples cannot marry in Israel, including couples who have different religions. However, there is the option of marring out of Israel in a civil ceremony. In cases where this has been done in a country that recognized the marriage then you could be registered in Israel as married. The other option is to live together, maintain a common household and be known as common-law-spouses, with the rights and responsibilities attached to this status. One of the rights is to have children, whether by surrogacy or insemination (if the couple are two women).

What is the law’s approach when a same-sex couple has a child? If the couple decide to separate, will there be alimony? This is a complex question. On the one hand, the religious law is not relevant in this case because if there are two mothers or two fathers, it is not clear who has to pay the alimony. The Family Law Amendment is also not relevant for the same reason and for other reasons that will not be discussed here.

In cases where there are two mothers, one of them got pregnant by insemination and had the child but her spouse is not the mother of the child and has no biological relation to the child – should one pay alimony?

The answer to these questions is – yes. Same-sex couples do have to pay alimony but the obligation is due to the force of a “contract”. When there is a claim for alimony between same-sex couples, the court will examine what the agreement between the couple was at the time when they had the child, was there an agreement to raise the child together or was is only the desire of one of the couple. If the “contract” between the couple (in contract we mean behavioral contract not necessarily written one) shows that both parties of the couple will raise the child then there will be alimony.

Wife alimony

A wife is entitled to receive alimony as long as the couple have separated but have not yet finally divorces. The purpose of this alimony is to provide the wife a respectful state of life and sufficient provision during the time where her relationship with her husband is not ended. The husband is Not required to pay wife alimony after the divorce.

This being said, there are cases where the husband will be exempt from paying wife alimony. Some examples are: when it is proved that the wife is the cause of the divorce, when a wife was unfaithful and had intercourse with another man or when the wife waives the alimony.

What can be done in cases where alimony is not paid?

A husband or father who refuses to pay alimony might find himself imprisoned. Social ruling in Israel is very strict with fathers who refuse to pay alimony for their children. In a case where alimony is not being paid you can go to the execution office and open a file against the father and can request to have the father imprisoned and to prevent him from leaving the country.

In addition, a mother who is not paid alimony for the children by their father can go to the National Security for alimony. The Alimony Law (assurance of payment), 5732-1972 states that a woman who is not receiving alimony for her children form their father is entitled to receive supplementary income (a percentage of the alimony) from the state. The Social Security can submit a claim so that the father should pay back any payment made by the state. It is important to know that alimony from the Social Security is not given to every mother. Is depends on her income (from a certain sum the Social Security will not make payments because of lack of alimony). Due to the above mentioned, it is advised that you consult with a family lawyer to check if you are eligible to receive supplementary income from the Social Security.

In conclusion

A father has to pay alimony for his children. You can calculate how much by using a free calculator for child alimony. A husband has to pay wife alimony until they are legally divorced. After the divorce, the husband is not required to pay wife alimony therefore, it is best to consult with a family lawyer when coming to deal with the matter of alimony.