The State of Israel and the Jewish law:
The State of Israel is not a religious State nevertheless; marriage in Israel is still a “religious” issue.
Most of the rules in this article are valid for couples married according to the Jewish religion (“K’a Dat Ve K’a Din”) and not for “mixed couples” as we will explain in this short article.
The only marriage ceremonies that can be conducted in Israel that lead to the registration of the couple as married in the population registry at the Interior Ministry (Misrad Hapinim) are Orthodox religious ceremonies conducted by clergy authorized by the religious establishment.
Other type of couples:
“Interfaith couples” cannot be legally married in Israel and the only solution in this case is if one of the partners converts to the religion of the other.
Civil, interfaith and same-sex marriages entered into abroad are recognized by the state and the spouses will be considered as couples – legally speaking meaning they will have all the rights marriage can be legal by the State but it will not be considered as one by the Jewish law.
Alimony and prenuptials agreements:
All the laws and rules below are valid only in cases where there is not an extra-matrimonial agreement. There are some exceptions for the rules but they are as said – “exceptions” therefore not widely used and every case is different from the other.
Any agreement made between the couple will be observed except for those agreements in which parents agree on behalf of their minor children. Minors can file claims for alimony against their parents even without their authorization or consent.
The Four Kinds of Alimony:
There are four kinds of alimony in Israel: alimony to the wife, alimony to family members, alimony by the will, and alimony to children (minors)—the Israeli equivalent of American child support.
In this short article, we will deal only with the alimony to minors. However, first let`s have a brief explanation on the alimony to family members.
Alimony to Family Members:
Unfortunately, this type of legal claim is common nowadays in family courts in Israel.
With advancements in technology and medicine, people tend to live much longer (though not necessarily much better).
The meaning of this longevity regarding alimony to family members is that parents get older but more dependent on their children for longer years!
Children are not always able or have the desire to care for their aging parents at home, therefore we find the “old people`s homes” packed with aging people. No need to tell you about the quality of this “care”.
At home, or in an old people’s home, parents who cannot support themselves may request that their children support them.
There are cases where siblings cannot reach a financial agreement and perhaps one or more of them refuses to help in supporting the elderly parents (this also applies to supporting a mentally ill sibling). In this case, the one who is paying may (should) sue the other one to receive their share.
As a side note, I will say that this kind of alimony is not for parents only!
Alimony to Minors:
The legal term used is not “child”, but rather “minor.
Minors are those who have not yet reached the age of 18; however, between the age of 18 and until the end of army service, such “minors” can be granted alimony (usually 1/3 of the stipulated amount).
Such alimony may start to be paid or requested when the parent leaves the house or on any other moment, depending on the case. There is a procedure for requesting a temporary alimony.
The family court (“Beit Mishpat Le Inianei Mishpacha”) is very different from the rabbinical court (“Beit Din Rabani”) in many aspects.
The amount to be paid will be determined after an agreement by the part is reached or after a Judge or a Dayan decides the amount for the couple that could not reach an agreement.
The amount vary greatly and most of the hearings in court will be dedicated to this matter.
The final decision given by the court is not permanent, but rather temporary as, depending on the circumstances, any party may request a change in the amount whenever there are reasons for doing so (e.g., health, financial, etc).
For the Judge or the Dayan, most important are the minors’ needs and never the parents’ needs. As a side note I would say “unfortunately parents’ needs” are neglected by the system and I mean the entire system from social workers to courtrooms.
What are the minor children’s expenses that the parent is absolutely bound to pay on their own? To avoid long explanations, I would summarize them as all essential expenses (e.g., food, clothing, and housing) plus specific expenses (e.g., education, medical, etc); however, each case is different.
There is no minimum or maximum amount and whatever is determined by the family court or rabbinic court is the “correct amount”.
Do not think that an extra sum per month that a lawyer can obtain for you is a small amount. Do the math and you find out a small amount will be a large sum after few years.
How to Receive Alimony when the Father/Mother Doesn`t Want to / Cannot Pay or has left the country?
In this case, the spouse (or the other parent) shall immediately file a request at the “Bituach Leumi” (National Insurance) office and start another proceeding at the “Otsaa La Foal” (The State Debt Collector).
This does not guarantee 100% that the spouse will pay, but will at least guarantee a minimum amount (established by law) that the “Bituach Leumi” will pay to you monthly (if nothing goes wrong in the process).
“Bituach Leumi” will pay this amount monthly on the day of the filing of the procedure (important) and until the age of 18 years old (and not 20 or 21). The exceptions to this rule are numerous: the spouse has a high income, the mother or the children are not in Israel, death of the child, etc.
The proceeding at “Otsaa La Foal” is not high cost and today can even be free of costs, but the chances of receiving something from your spouse if he really does not have any assets, minimum income, etc., will be very small.
While he doesn`t pay the debt (of the alimony), he will not be allowed to leave the country legally, and whatever asset he purchases (that you know about, of course) may be garnished by you. He will also not be able to have money in bank accounts and other financial institutions.
You can wave your right to be represented by a lawyer in your divorce.
The judge or the Dayan will try to convince you otherwise. Even in case you have reached an agreement in court without legal representation, the chances of reopening the case later are almost nonexistent. Please keep this in mind.
In the rabbinical court, one can be represented by a “Toen Rabani” which doesn`t have to be a lawyer. In most cases, they are good professionals, but a “Toen Rabani” will not be allowed to represent anyone in the family court.
The costs of a divorce are usually not low.
If you cannot pay, don`t have any income or assets (real estate, cars, etc.), you will be eligible to receive free assistance from the public defenders but as you can imagine the service provided (public) is not as from a private lawyer for obvious reasons you can understand.
The agreements between the parents never bind the minors to “accept them”. The minors represented or not by the parents or by the general attorney, can always file requests for increase of alimony, etc. against the parents!
I hope this article is at least a general clear explanation, but please remember that it can never replace a legal opinion specific for your case.
These are general rules to clarify basic issues to the those (mainly new immigrants) living in Israel, and not more than that.