Israeli Court Rules Kibbutzniks Must Share Child Support, Citing Their 'Egalitarian Lifestyle'

Tiberias judge rejects woman's request that her ex-husband assume sole responsibility for their three children's support.

Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi

A Tiberias court has rejected a woman's request that her ex-husband be solely responsible for their children's support, on the grounds that this would contradict the egalitarian lifestyle the two committed to as kibbutz members.

The couple has three children. When they split up a few years ago, their divorce agreement included no child-support arrangement, because they were living on a kibbutz where children's needs were paid for out of the collective budget. But the kibbutz recently underwent a partial privatization, meaning that members now receive differential salaries. The woman therefore sued her ex-husband for child support, while arguing that she herself should be exempt.

The Tiberias Family Court agreed that the change in the kibbutz's status entitled her to sue, but rejected her claim that, given Israel's personal status laws, the father alone should be responsible for child support.

Normally, this would be true, Judge Assaf Zagury wrote. But the two are still living on the kibbutz, and even after privatization the kibbutz maintains an egalitarian ethos that is absent in other communities and that the court must take into account.

"This is not just a way of life, but a system backed by a statutory contract (bylaws ) between the kibbutz and its members," he wrote. "This contract constitutes a supreme normative system that regulates the members' relations with the kibbutz and their relations with each other, and it can't be ignored. This can be seen as a tacit or explicit stipulation by the parents to the personal status laws, in the sense that even in relation to [the children's] essential needs, the familial obligation of the parents will be an egalitarian obligation. ... There's an understandable difficulty with obligating only one parent to support his children, when kibbutz members are committed to live according to the principles of democracy and equality."

The conclusion that the parents had committed themselves to an egalitarian approach is bolstered by the divorce agreement they signed, which included a joint-custody provision, Zagury added.

A significant gap between the ex-spouses' salaries might have justified violating the principle of equality, he noted. But, in fact, no such gap existed. Therefore, he concluded, the woman's demand to be exempted from child support must be rejected.

The dining hall at Kibbutz Yakum.Credit: 'Dining Room'

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