A Family Court judge had some harsh words for a yeshiva student who claimed he couldn’t afford to pay alimony and child support: Go out and get a job.
What set off his decision, said Judge Yehoram Shaked of the Tel Aviv Family Court, was the reasoning the student provided in a letter to the court seeking to be excused from the payments.
He argued that while he was a yeshiva student with few options for employment, and “earning” only NIS 2,000 a month for his membership in a Kollel – far less than the NIS 6,000 the Family Court ordered him to supply for his ex-wife and five children, ages 4 through 13 – he wrote that his ex-wife, who had a teaching license, could easily get a job and “pay” herself the demanded funds.
“I cannot but express my amazement at this claim of the father’s,” the judge wrote in his decision. “About this it has been written ‘do as I say, not do as I do,’” and there was no place in his courtroom for that.
Under modern practice in Israel, husbands who divorce their wives have two choices: Either pay the amount named in the standard Jewish marriage contract (the sum has been estimated to be in excess of $90,000 by rabbinical authorities), or follow the ruling of Family Court, which determines how much husbands must pay to support their children who live with their mothers.
According to Shaked, the ex-husband is required by law – both secular and Jewish – to do everything possible to support his kids, especially in this case, as the student’s “inability” to work is a personal choice.
For himself, Shaked wrote in his decision, that would be fine – but when it comes to supporting his family, the husband’s claim that he “cannot” work is not valid. While it is not clear how much he could earn, considering that he has been out of the workforce for years, the judge said the husband had a responsibility to try and find a job.
“With all due respect to the husband’s way of life, he cannot live his life in a vacuum without taking into account his responsibilities,” wrote Shaked. “Before anything else, he is the father of five children, and he is obligated to support them. It would behoove him to consider this fact.”