Men who duck out of paying child support may now have to face not just the wrath of an ex-wife, but also the state's debt collection agency.
Ex-spouses will be allowed to open child support files with the Bailiff's Office, which will then take on responsibility for chasing down the funds, according to a bill that won the coalition's support Sunday. It must still be passed by the Knesset before it becomes law.
There are currently 96,842 active child support files in the Bailiff's Office, and the unpaid debts across the country amount to a total of NIS 11 billion, including interest.
The Jerusalem Bailiff's Office has the most open child support files of any city in the country, at 46,000. Tel Aviv comes in at 12,000, Be'er Sheva at 8,700, and Haifa at 6,070.
"Based on my recommendation to the justice minister, an unprecedented change will take place, mainly that as soon as a child support file is opened, the person seeking the child support won't have to make every request in the case anymore," said David Medioni, who heads the Justice Ministry's Enforcement and Collection Authority, which includes the Bailiff's Office.
"Once the law is passed in the Knesset, the State of Israel will be able to stand with many countries in Europe that have set up an entire system of collecting child support payments that is similar to [the one proposed] in our bill," he said.
In 44 percent of child support cases filed with the Bailiff's Office, it has been the parent with primary custody of the children, usually the mother, who has been responsible for asking the office to take action against the former spouse and for deciding which action to request.
Without the help of a lawyer
Most parents trying to run down child support payments do so without the help of a lawyer.
If a mother meets certain financial criteria, the National Insurance Institute pays the child support owed by the father. In those cases, the NII is the one responsible for pursuing payment from the deadbeat dads through the Bailiff's Office.
The Bailiff's Office is seen as being more likely, and better equipped, to pursue scofflaws than the ex-spouse, who may fear violence or lack the resources to get the money.
"The combination of long-term action and the difficulty in facing the husband - the person who owes the child support - created a situation in which the number of debtors increased and a large debt accumulated in these cases," said Medioni.
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