Some 43 percent of divorced fathers in Israel don’t pay child support, according to a calculation made by the Finance Ministry obtained by Haaretz. The treasury added that the Bailiff’s Office has succeeded in collecting child support payments from around half of them.
“This figure ...must be a wake-up call to all those who believe we are in a fair and egalitarian social reality,” said Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari of Bar-Ilan University’s Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women. “This figure reveals that almost every second divorced father evades his basic responsibility of supporting his children.”
Finance Ministry officials submitted the data during a lawsuit filed by the Justice Ministry’s Legal Aid Department against the National Insurance Institute in Tel Aviv Labor Court. Legal Aid is demanding an amendment to the law, under which the NII uses financial means tests to determine whether to transfer at least part of the unpaid child support to the mother.
The Bailiff’s Office tries to collect money from deadbeat dads, but the ex-wife can only make a claim for the funds from the NII if she earns less than 8,500 shekels ($2,312) a month. The NII will provide the full amount she’s meant to get only if she earns no more than NIS 600 a month. The more she earns, the less she will get.
From those women who earn between 600 and 8,500 shekels a month, the state deducts 27 percent to 60 percent in taxes. So for example, a woman who earns 5,000 shekels a month, whose husband is meant to pay 1,200 shekels a month, will only get 205 shekels from the NII.
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Legal Aid filed the suit in the name of a 31-year-old divorcee whose husband is refusing to pay 1,200 shekels in child support. The existing regulations, the suit says, are “fundamentally flawed, unreasonable, and discriminatory” and do not fulfill the purpose of the law. The law, it said, violates the right of the mother and children to live in dignity, leaves them in poverty, and discourages the mother from working.
The NII said that cancelling income tests would “create discrimination and inequality between those eligible for child support and those eligible for income support,” and that a situation could arise in which the state would be paying a subsistence allowance to women with means. The attorney general also said that “the principle of equality must be maintained among all those eligible for child support” and that changing the regulations would require a budgetary increase of some 22 million shekels a year, according to the NII.
The treasury, however, presented a much higher estimate. The ministry said that if the income tests were canceled, and the NII paid full child support to all the women who did not receive it from their former husbands, it would cost between NIS 118 million and NIS 714 million annually. Finance Ministry officials said the NII calculation is incorrect because it does not take into account that the cancellation of means tests will lead many more women to apply directly to the NII for their child support without even trying other means of getting their exes to pay.
About a year and a half ago, a committee headed by MK Meirav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) looked into the matter, and recommended that the sum that the NII transfers to the women be raised, a recommendation that Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz accepted.