The rate of child support payments collected from men who don’t pay them on schedule as required has dropped sharply in recent years, MKs were told Monday at a hearing of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
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While about 10 years ago the state managed a collection rate of 45 percent to 55 percent, in 2014 the rate dropped to 42 percent and in 2015 it reached an all-time low of only 38 percent. That year, the NII transferred 437 million shekels ($112.3 million) to women in lieu of child support payments, but the state managed to collect only 165 million shekels from their ex-husbands.
The drop is linked to the change in 2014 that saw responsibility for collecting child support from deadbeat husbands being transferred from the NII to the Justice Ministry’s Enforcement and Collection Authority. This was done with the aim of improving collection, but the results have been just the opposite, leaving tens of thousands of single mothers and their children without the money that’s coming to them. Thus the state, which to some extent steps into the breach, is losing nearly 300 million shekels annually.
On Monday, the Knesset committee held a hearing on the issue, initiated by MK Orli Levi-Abekasis, to determine why collections have fallen. The collection authority claimed that the NII isn’t providing them with enough data, while the NII claims that the collection authority simply isn’t doing its job. Anat Lieberman, deputy legal adviser of the collection authority, told the panel, “There were a lot of difficulties setting up a system to synchronize the information about the debts with the NII and it took two years to make things work correctly.”
The harm to these women and their children stems from an inherent problem with the law, under which the NII will only give the women the lower of two amounts – either the amount of child support the court determined for them, or the amount stated in the NII’s own regulations.
Regulations penalize divorced wives, children
According to these regulations, a woman with one child gets 2,897 shekels a month, while a woman with two or more children gets 3,373 shekels a month. If the state succeeds in collecting the discrepancy from the ex-husband, it will give the woman the full amount she’s entitled to. But the lack of effective collection means thousands of children are getting between 1,000 shekels and 3,000 shekels a month less than they are meant to be getting.
Moreover, if the mother is working and earns more than 5,500 shekels a month, she won’t get anything from the NII; her only hope is to open a file against her ex at the Bailiff’s Office and hope the state succeeds in making the man pay up.
“The low collection rates testify to a massive systemic failure,” said Levi-Abekasis. “We have to get to the root of the problem and understand what has led to a drop in collections, that even before were lower than half [of the debts owed] and to suggest solutions to encourage parents who are required to pay child support to their children and make it clear that nonpayment hurts the children and not the custodial parent.”
The Enforcement and Collection Authority noted in a later response that their representatives at the committee had said cases are transferred from the NII to the Bailiff’s Office after the debts are recorded at the Bailiff’s Office. From the moment the cases are transferred, collections rise. The authority believes that from now on, more and more files will be taken in by the Bailiff’s Office and that collections will rise accordingly.