Association Peace and Justice for Sephardic Jews in Israel
89- 91 Rue Faubourg Saint Honore, 75008 PARIS, FRANCE, Fax +44-843-265-3586
CHILD SUPPORT IN ISRAEL
Very little is written in English about the child support regime in Israel. Judges oversees often assume that the child support proceedings in Israel are, at minimum, compliant with Due Process, equal protection, non-discrimination, freedom of and from religion and basic human rights standards. The truth is that none of this applies. Israeli child support laws adopt ancient religious laws, and even the civil family law judges apply ancient religious law, mixed with a heavy dose of radical feminism. The result is an oppressive regime where women are totally exempt from child support, women are entitled to collect child support even if they are non custodians, rampant discrimination based on sex in favor of women, draconian formulas that are blind to income, complete lack of procedural due process, hardly any evidentiary trials, hardly any cross examinations of witnesses, routine denials of the right to call witnesses, and separate results for Jewish, Muslim and Christian children. Israel's child support levels are the highest in the world.
It is therefore essential that central authorities approached by Israel in search of concluding reciprocation agreements, condition cooperation with Israel on the removal of all gender based discrimination between parents, removal of all traces of religious law, restoration of evidence and due process procedures to family courts, full transcripts, adherence to evidence rules, and adoption of an income- based, gender-neutral formula. It appears that Israel is defiant not to change the way Israeli men are being discriminated against.
THE ESSENTIALS OF CHILD SUPPORT IN ISRAEL
I. THE FIGURES AND NUMBERS
1. The father has to pay a minimum of 1,400 NIS ($370) for each child, plus half of kindergarten tuition (about 1,000-1,500 NIS,$263-400) plus at least one or two after school classes (100-400 NIS, $26-$105), plus babysitter until the age of 11 (200-400 NIS, $52-$105), plus half the dental, glasses or contact lenses, books, and anything “extraordinary”, plus the woman's rent (or imputed rent is she own property) at her choice, as follows: 33% for 1 child, 40% for two children and 50% for 3 children or more, plus the expenses on the housing accommodation at same rates (city tax, building maintenance fee, water, electricity, gas, communications).
2. This roughly results in 2,500 to 4,000 NIS ($650- $1,050) per one child, 4,000 to 6,000 NIS ($1,050-$1,600) for 2 children, and 6,000 to 8,000 ($1,600-$2,100) for 3 children, (in the lower and middle classes). The amounts can be higher for richer fathers.
3. By contrast, the minimum wage in Israel is around 4,000 NIS ($1,050), average earners make between 6,000 - 10,000 NIS ($1600-$2,650) and very few earn more than that. Note that 25% of the Israeli population makes 3,500 NIS ($920) or less, 50% of the population earn 5,800 NIS ($1,500) or less, 65% earn 8,800 NIS ($2,300, median) or less, and 75% earn 10,000 NIS ($2,650) or less (gross). The cost of living in Israel is among the highest in Europe, and the salaries are about 30% less than Germany, for example. Given these statistics, it can safely be said that Israel's child support awards are oppressive and unconscionable.
4. When Israeli child support awards are compared to the U.S., Australia or Canada's online calculators, Israel's awards are higher by 250% to 400%, or more, for most of the population.
5. The Israeli family courts add between 5,000 - 20,000 NIS ($1,300-$5,200) in “attorney fees” in favor of the woman, just for “winning the case”, regardless of how much she originally demanded, and how much she “won”.
6. The amounts are imposed after inquiry into the man's earning and assets during the marriage, not during divorce. This is relevant for the “extras” on top of the “per child minimum”. Courts ignore the fact the usually attorney fees cost 40,000 NIS ($10,500) to start with, that the man is often automatically expelled from the marital residence at the start of proceedings, that he now has to pay for his own housing, that almost every divorce in Israel starts with a false domestic violence complaint which forces the man to hire a criminal attorney, and that the frequency of contact with lawyers, judges, police and social workers diminishes the ability to maintain a job. The rap sheet that comes with the constant stream of police complaints, also hinder s employability. Also, if the man is lucky to get visitations not in a supervised center (one hour a week), then he loses two afternoons that deprive him from working full time. Leaving work at 15:00 to arrive at visitations at 16:00 twice a week means a loss of 4 hours of work (assuming the work day ends at 17:00) out of 40 in a week (10%).
7. In many cases the man has to pay 15,000-20,000 NIS ($4,000-$5,250) to undergo psycho-diagnostic testing a/k/a Parental Fitness Exams, to “prove” that he is fit to see his children, and in many cases he is arbitrarily forced to pay for parental guidance and parental coordinators, half of 400 NIS an hour, $105.
8. The costs of transportation to visitations and from visitations are borne on the man, regardless of distance. Note that women get automatic interim, custody, and if there is evidentiary trial on custody, it is 4-5 years later.
9. Involuntary inability to work: Fathers at school and students get no discount. The same requirements apply. For example attendees of rabbinical yeshivas who receive a 3,000 NIS ($780) monthly allowance can be ordered to pay a child support amount of 7,000 - 8,000 NIS ($1,850-$2,100). Students, who earn no money at all, must still pay full child support without discounts or consideration of their situation. The same applies to men in incarceration, men in house arrest, incapacitated men, crippled men, and hospitalized men. None of these circumstances qualifies for any deviation from the above requirements. None of these circumstances qualifies for a downward modification application. In other words, the debt is always an “absolute duty”.
10. No modifications of child support: There is almost no circumstance that qualifies for a downward modification. We are unaware of any successful downward modification application. On the contrary, men who make a downward modification motion, which is denied, will end up paying at least 5,000 NIS in sanctions in the nature of “attorney fees” in favor of the wife. This is a major deterrent from even trying to seek modifications, let alone the cost of hiring a lawyer which is a minimum of 10,000 NIS ($2,600 per motion).
11. Appeals: Appeals are almost impossible or unaffordable. On top of the court fee, the man has to bond the appeal with at least 20,000 NIS ($5,250). Usually, the trial court's judgment is written in a way that is immune to appeal. In other words, the judge writes that the woman's testimony was “credible and coherent”, and that phrase alone kills all chances of appeal in child support cases.
12. New children: Even when a man remarries and has new children to care for and feed, that is no reason for a reduction in child support payable to the first children. Men who made such applications were told by Judges that they should not have brought new children to the world, when they know they have an existing obligation to the children of the divorced wife. In the eyes of the law, the children of the second wife can starve to death, as long as the children of the first wife continue to get what the Court ordered.
13. Income from assets: Owning assets will increase the child support. The court can force the man to sell his share in the real estate by appointing a receiver to sell his property or his half of the marital property (at a fee of 4% to 6% of the sale price, and may garnish in advance two years of child support.
14. No self Support: Israeli family courts do not recognize a right to a minimum self support for the father. The court would simply cite an old precedent that the man must find work in a second shift to increase his income. Whether there is such a second shift job is another issue. The man is not even allowed to babysit his own children to save the babysitting component of the child support. 100% of the salary may be garnished for child support arrears.
15. Nè Exeats: Applications for nè exeat orders against the husband are liberally granted, ex parte, based on allegations of either intent to abscond, or anticipatory non-payment of child support. Even non-residents may be enjoined from leaving the State of Israel.
16. Grandparents' duty to support: When a woman is unsuccessful in collecting child support from the man, she can sue his parents. The grandparents are thus quasi-guarantors of the child support. This does not give the grandparents any right whatsoever to see their grandchildren. They can be ordered to pay the child support, and never see the grandchildren. If the grandparents do try to see the children, for example at school or kindergarten, they will be arrested on stalking or privacy charges.
II. APPLICABLE RULES AND NORMS
17. Only men are liable for child support. Women are exempt from child support. A woman is entitled to child support even if she is non-custodian.
18. The religious child support laws applicable in religious courts are also applicable in civil family courts, and depend on the religion of the father. A father may not opt out of his assigned religion. This generates a difference in awards for children based on religion. In general, Jewish children are entitled to 50% more than Muslim children.
19. In calculating child support, the woman's income is irrelevant. Even when a woman is much richer than her husband, he must still pay her the same amounts.
20. In calculating child support, the man's income is almost irrelevant. The court simply multiplies a certain “basic” amount by the number of children, and adds participation in the woman's rent and housing expenses on top. If the result is close to the man's income or the same as the income or exceeds the income, it doesn't matter.
21. The assets of the man are also taken into consideration for increased levels of child support.
III. JUDICIAL ATTITUDE
22. The paperwork drafted by lawyers in Israeli family courts is often offensive, stereotypical, and demeaning. The lawyers use “cut and paste” language that attributes to every man demeaning language: “sickening, repulsive, violent, monster”. This sets the initial tone.
23. At court, judges would almost never let the man speak directly to the court, and counsel for the man may frequently be silenced or cut off during argument. Since transcripts are not verbatim, the court often eliminates from the record the arguments made by the attorney for the man, which can be grounds for appeal.
24. Men sometimes find themselves surrounded by security guards in order to intimidate them.
25. Men who protested against the unconscionable level of child support were simply told by Judges “go sell one of your kidneys”.
IV. CIVIL PROCEDURE
26. First note: Israeli family courts are not bound by evidence rules or procedure. Judges are free to do whatever they please, even issue judgments without trials. This always works in favor of women.
27. The family courts are closed, and what goes into the transcript is what the judge decides is “worthy” of being transcribed. This prevents scrutiny, and protects the decision from appeal.
28. Approximate time from filing to trial is 4-5 years. During the pendency, only pretrial conferences are held, for about ten minutes each, and about every 6 months.
29. Many times, a divorce starts with a false domestic violence complaint to the police followed by an automatic 30 day expulsion from the home, which becomes perpetual. The man is expelled without his documents, records, clothing, or anything that he kept at home. He then receives a barrage of 3-5 separately drafted complaints: divorce, child support, custody, marital property distribution, and recently it has become trendy for women to file tort cases, negligence, libel and other violation of female autonomy and feelings causes of action. All this is accompanied with various motions for temporary relief, all of them require written answers within 15 days. If the man chooses to contest any of these complaints and the pendente lite motion, he will end up paying attorney fees at the end, since a man can never win a child support case. There are simply no defenses to the “cause of action”.
30. The motion for interim child support filed by the woman contains wild allegations about hidden moneys and earning ability, most of it without any supporting documents or proof. The husband files his opposition and an order is issued within days based on the papers alone. The next opportunity to challenge this interim order is usually 4 or 5 years later when a trial is scheduled, but that is after the woman had started accumulating enormous child support collectible debt, which she collects by garnishing wages (on the entire salary), and by forcing the sale of the husband's property.
31. The trial itself is a sham and a mockery of justice. In order to summon a witness, the man has to deposit 1,000 NIS ($263) in witness fee per witness, (e.g., J. Esperanza Alon) and it is extremely hard to convince a judge to summon witnesses to support the man's position. The trial can be limited to 30 minutes per side (e.g., J. Tova Sivan). That is hardly enough to go beyond the basic introductory questions. The woman can introduce into evidence any document she wishes. By contrast, many of the man's proof will be excluded from the record, or questions disallowed.
32. In case the father is overseas, the court will never allow participation by videoconference and will require the man to travel to Israel, where he will definitely be arrested, and will not be able to leave, because a nè exeat order will be issued. The court will strike the man's defense and give a default judgment to the woman without inquest, or minimal review of her proof.
V. COLLECTION OF CHILD SUPPORT
A collection case can be opened at the Israeli Judgments and Debt Collection Authority, even when there is no debt owing at all. Once filed for collection, the original amounts ordered by the judge accrues Cost of living Index and the highest interest applicable (can be 18% p.a.), compounded on the principal and accrued interest, [the rate is unpublished and the debtor doesn't know what it is]. This child support escalation adds an additional 100-200 NIS per month every 12 months, just for the Cost of Living Index.
All applications made by the creditor (the woman), are ex parte, and so are the decisions. In rare cases, the debtor (husband) is asked to file opposition. The application is never served on the husband. He must travel to the office where the collection case opened, stand in line and pay $1 for every page in the file. If the decision is mailed, it only contains the first 17 lines, or it is a cryptic message: “A decision was made. For further details, go physically to the Executions Office”.
Once a child support collection case is filed, it is almost impossible to correct false statements, false calculations and/or false components. Almost immediately a barrage of liens is issued upon the employers, all the banks, all the financial institutions and all the pension funds. The debtor has no idea where liens are placed until about three weeks thereafter when he receives a postcard from the Executions Office. Several months into the process more draconian measures are imposed: driving license suspension, ne exeats, passport seizures, credit card restrictions, and many others.
A few months later, orders of arrest can be granted. The police is dispatched to fetch the man. At child support arrest hearings, the debtor is usually without counsel, since the only allowable issue is whether a debt is outstanding. It is no defense that the debtor has no ability to pay. In fact, there is no defense allowed whatsoever. Unless a large payment is made on account, the man will be incarcerated for three weeks, and this can be repeated every three months. The incarceration will not reduce the debt. It is purely a punitive measure.
VI. REASONS WHY NOT TO RECIPROCATE WITH ISRAEL
Against this background, which is unflattering to a country that prides itself on maintaining democratic values, the following is a summary of reasons why central authorities around the world should decline any approach to enter reciprocation agreements. [This may be repetitive of earlier comments].
First, child support laws even at family courts are religion- based. Israel applies different levels of child support to Jewish men, Muslim men and Christian men. Since the civil family courts apply religious law, and the results are different solely based on the religion of the father, and a father cannot opt out of a religion, reciprocating to Israel is, in essence, an adoption of discrimination based purely on religion. Moreover, it offends the right of a person to be free from religion.
Second, only men pay child support in Israel. Women are exempt. Even a very poor father will still pay child support to a very rich mother. Other countries should not embrace discrimination between parents solely on the basis of gender.
Third, even in the odd case that fathers are awarded custody, and they raise their own children, they must continue to pay child support to the non-custodian woman. By reciprocating to Israel, the foreign Government will be adopting outrageous practices that are against the US public policy, that the custodian should be the payee, not the payor. In the case of Ariel Fefer v. Michal Fefer, the custodian father living in NJ was told by Israel's Central Authority flat out that if he pursues child support against his wife in Israel, he may end up paying her “child support”.
Fourth, the awards of child support in Israel are not income based. In fact, Israeli judges are completely blind to the income of the father. They impose child supports regardless of the ability to earn. Child support can even exceed the actual income. The minimum is about $400 per child per month, plus half of additional extras. Thus, a father of 3 children, who earns $1,000 may still have to pay a minimum of $1,200, (and 50% of the woman's rent) even if cannot afford it.
Fifth, Israeli child support awarded also include a component unrecognized anywhere in the Western world, a duty to pay the wife a share of her rent, and the expenses and maintenance of the rent (33% for 1 child, 40% for 2 children, and 50% for 3 children or more). This is in addition to the minimum $400 per child per month, plus extras and the rent. Notice that the cost of living in Israel is higher than the United States, and the average salary is about half of that in the United States. This yields child awards that are impossible to pay.
In fact, almost 80% to 90% of child support cases end up in collection. (Note that in collection, a 1% service charge is deducted). The obligation to pay “rent” does not qualify as child support in the US and should not be reciprocated.
Sixth, Israeli family courts do not allow testimony by videotape and do not recognize “witness immunity”. Therefore fathers living outside Israel cannot attend the child support trial, because they will be arrested, and immediately upon entry into Israel, they will be served with a ne exeat order. Thus, Israeli family courts routinely strike the Answering papers of the non-custodian fathers, who will not risk being arrested, and upon non-appearance, the court will grant child support judgment on default without inquest, solely at the request of the mothers.
Thus, most cases that Israel seeks to reciprocate overseas are or will be products of default judgments. For example in Magid v. Magid the Court had stricken the NJ father's answer for non appearance for trial. Note that in one case, Nachom v. Nachom, a father came from California to attend a child abduction trial and was enjoined from leaving on a $500,000 bond. He was stuck in Israel 3 years.
In Ben Haim v. Ben Haim, the father came to Israel from New Jersey and was detained on a $30,000 bond for 4 months. In Cohen v. Cohen, the father came to Israel from Spain for a Hague hearing, and was arrested. The answering papers to the child complaint were stricken, due to the courts refusal to grant his request to testify by videoconference. In Hupert v, Hupert, the father came to testify from Sydney and was arrested. All these arrests are either based on false DV charges, or anticipatory refusal to consent to a divorce.
Given the circumstances, all reciprocation with Israel should be suspended until Israel conforms to international human rights which include income based child support self support reserve, non discrimination based on religion, right to freedom from religion, non discrimination based on gender, and ability to testify by videoconference or “witness immunity” protection for those traveling to testify.