Supreme Court Ruling on Child Support – July 2017

The Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling that is generating a great deal of resonance (FA 919/15, 1709/15 John Doe vs. Jane Doe et al, dated 19 July 2017) as it marks a significant shift in child support for children aged 6-15.

Before this ruling, a father was obligated to provide for the essential needs of his child between the ages of 6-15, where anything exceeding the basic needs was divided between the parents according to charity law and, inter alia, pursuant to their available income. However, in the event of joint custody, the court presented several approaches to reducing the father’s obligations.

According to the recent ruling, parents to children between the ages of 6-15 are equally responsible for the support of their children (all needs, whether essential or excessive) by force of charity law. The division between the parents shall be determined according to their relative capacity based on the sources of income available to them, including salary, considering the actual custodial arrangement and noting the specific circumstances of the case.

In a typical case of joint physical custody, (i.e. where a child stays with each of the parents for identical or nearly identical periods), each parent shall bear the ongoing subsistence expenses in kind. In addition, a mechanism shall be determined for expenses that are not ongoing subsistence expenses, but rather “other needs” (such as clothing, textbooks, unexpected medical care and more). Customarily, it will probably be a mechanism of a “consolidating parent”, who will receive payment of the other parent’s share of such expenses (relative share to be determined by earning differences). In addition, parents will continue to share the exceptional expenses, subject to their earning capacity and a mechanism determined by the Family Court. In addition, each parent will individually bear the expense of dwelling for the children.

The ruling created a strong link between the ruling and scope of support and between the actual types of custody. In addition, the ruling found that the label of “joint custody” is not enough and the court must determine the actual physical custodial arrangement.

In a series of rulings following the above, the Family and District Courts demonstrated a significant and real shift in the child support rulings in Israel, implementing the principles of the ruling in accordance with the various parameters set forth therein.

On 24 July 2017, following the ruling, the Be’er Sheva District Rabbinical Court ruled that joint custody cannot serve as grounds to release the father from his duty to support his children. It further found, that all options for charging the father with support must be exhausted and such charges must be applied to other relatives only where the father is not wealthy. In its ruling, the Rabbinical Court described the Supreme Court ruling as a “distortion” that replaced another “distortion” created by the court, by which the father was charged with high child support amounts. The Rabbinical Court believes that the Supreme Court ruling must not be upheld and that its approach must not be applied. According to the district Rabbinical court, child support will be imposed on the father alone, but the Rabbinical Court will not impose an amount exceeding his ability, will be sure to leave the father enough to subsist, will avoid general use of the term “earning capacity” and will avoid obligating him in cases of doubt.

In closing, the issue of child support is still ambiguous and the outcome depends, inter alia, on the legal instance, requiring legal counsel in this regard.