There is a new law in the family courts that states, “a change of circumstances” could warrant an intervention in a signed divorce agreement.
This is a real case. (The names and some details have been changed to protect privacy) Case HFC 7750-06-19 from the Court in Kirayot (North of Haifa) under the authority of Judge Shiri Heiman
The financial pressures of supporting two households
Yaakov leaned on the counter with a big sigh. It was always a little stressful speaking to his ex-wife but today was exceptional. His new wife had just given birth to their second child and those monthly child support payments he’d been making to help support his kids from his first marriage were about to become very difficult. Since his ex-wife just got a promotion and a raise, Yaakov had asked her to agree to a reduction in his payments to help relieve some of his financial strain.
His ex-wife wasn’t having any of it. “We signed an agreement, Yaakov. You having kids with her, doesn’t change your obligation to our kids. Just because ours are 8 and 10 doesn’t mean they need less. And my earning more doesn’t make you less responsible. If you want to change anything, you can take me to court.”
Right after his ex disconnected the call, Yaakov dialed his family law attorney. “Am I stuck here?” he asked. “Don’t the changing circumstances make any difference in my payment terms?” He was confident that his attorney was up to date on the laws because Yaakov had chosen him carefully by asking all the right questions before he hired him.
A significant change in the law
One of the biggest and most significant changes in family law in recent years concerns child support payments. According to Jewish law and older civil laws, it was only a father who was required to make support payments for his children. But now, with recent changes, there have been numerous rulings under extenuating circumstances (with an emphasis on “extenuating”) where the support obligation has been divided between the father and mother. There was even a recent ruling where the mother alone was obligated to make support payments.
Because of the changes in the law, fathers have been approaching the court for a reduction in support payment obligations. In order to reevaluate an agreement that two parties reached after much negotiation and mutual compromise, there must be a justifiable reason to amend such a signed agreement.
Was Yaakov’s situation considered a valid change of circumstances?
Yaakov claimed that a setback in his own financial status coupled with an upgrade to his ex-wife’s financial status was a reason to lower his support payments. But the judge ruled that wasn’t the reason to consider it. She sited the new law which instituted a change to the legal obligation for supporting children above the age of six. In the new law even a minor change of status is enough to reevaluate previous support agreements. It’s for this reason the court ruled in Yaakov’s case, to subtract NIS 500 a month from his support obligation.
The best way to navigate legal challenges
- Make sure you have a good attorney. Family court is dynamic. The laws are frequently updated. It’s only one of the reasons hiring a responsible attorney is so important. A ‘good’ family law attorney will consistently be attending seminars and refresher courses so he or she will be aware of any legal changes which could negatively affect your case.
- Keep your emotions in check. The more able you and your ex are able to keep it civil and kind, the better off your kids will be.
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