A still from the film 'Gett,’ which examines Jewish divorce laws.
(photo credit: PR)
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that divorced mothers of children aged six to 15 will have to share equally the financial burden of child support with the fathers if their salaries are equal or the woman’s is higher and children are in joint custody.
The ruling, issued by an expanded panel of seven justices, was given in response to an appeal by two divorced men whose ex-wives earned higher salaries than they did but who were still required to pay child support even though their children were in joint custody.
Until now, men have been required to pay child support to their ex-wives even in situations of joint custody when the mother earned more than the father.
“The exclusive obligation of the father for child support payments and the exemption granted to the mother is not directly affected by the question of child custody,” wrote the justices.
They added that the current law requiring the father alone to pay for essential needs in child support “is likely to leave the father without the necessary resources to guarantee the welfare of the child and his well-being when he is staying with him, and also causes financial difficulties [for the father] himself.”
The justices agreed with the claim of the two fathers that current law discriminates against men in not taking into account situations in which there is joint custody.
“[Until now] the obligation for child support lies at the door of the father alone, whether the mother has custody, the father has custody or there is joint custody. We emphasize again that the obligation of the mother to share in child support applies only to that part of the child support that exceeds essential needs, so that in general, the father’s share will [still] be greater,” continued the justices.
“When the father provides part of the essential needs for child support, it is possible to reduce the financial payments he is required to transfer to the mother,” they said.
Attorney Amir Shai, who represented one of the fathers, described the ruling as one of the most important decisions of the last decade.
“From now on, the discrimination by which only fathers have to financially support their children will end,” said Shai.
“Children in Israel now have two addresses which must take care of them, as in any normal country. It’s reasonable to expect that tens of thousands of fathers will now flood the courts with requests to adjust their child support payments in accordance with this ruling in the coming months.”
Likud MK Yoav Kisch, who has introduced legislation to change child support laws, described the decision as “historic news,” “just,” and added that it would “prevent an illogical injustice which harms children most of all.”
The Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women welcomed the ruling as well, saying that it would create a semblance of order in establishing the division of child support in cases of joint custody.
The organization argued however that even before Wednesday’s ruling, the courts have taken into consideration the financial situation of fathers, and that those with low incomes have been required to pay less child support with mothers picking up a larger part of the financial burden.
“This decision has been presented in a manipulative and erroneous way, as if until now divorced women have not borne any of the burden of child support, and that as of today the burden will be shared equally. There is nothing further from the truth, and the Supreme Court said this explicitly,” the Rackman Center said.