The Israeli Supreme Court ruled this week that divorced mothers will have to share 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. This brings Israel into line with Florida law on the matter.

The Israel Case

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.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the ruling 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.

“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.

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.

Florida Child Support

I’ve written about child support issues in Florida before. Calculating child support in Florida used to be entirely at the judge’s discretion, based on a parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s needs.

Florida established child support guidelines which follows the income shares model. The guidelines are far from foolproof, but do provide the amounts can be adjusted upward or downward. The statute allows deviations by up to 5 percent after considering relevant factors.

Additionally, the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of 10 enumerated factors, and one equitable factor — the colloquial “catch-all” exception. Finally, the statue mandates use of a gross-up calculation of support for substantial time-sharing.

In Florida, parents exercising substantial time-sharing incur their own child rearing expenses when they time-share, and are duplicating payment for items already included in their child support.

Without adjustments for substantial time-sharing, parents can be paying twice for a child’s expense, making time-sharing prohibitively expensive. Accordingly, in 2008, the statute was amended to expand the meaning of substantial time-sharing to equalize the child support obligation.

Back in Israel

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.

The Jerusalem Post article is here.