There is a new law in the family courts that states a “change of circumstances” could warrant an intervention in a signed divorce agreement.
The financial pressure of supporting two households
HFC 7750-06-19 From the Court in Kirayot (North of Haifa) under the authority of Judge Shiri Heiman (Names changed for privacy)
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 to help relieve some of his financial strain.
“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?”
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.
What is considered a valid change of circumstance?
In Yaakov’s case the court ruled to subtract NIS 500 from his support obligation.
But it wasn’t because of his claim of a setback in his financial status coupled with an upgrade to his ex-wife’s financial status. The Judge ruled that in light of the new law which instituted a change to the legal obligation for children above the age of six, (Yaakov’s children from his first marriage were 8 and 10), even a minor change of status is enough to reevaluate previous support agreements.
Family court is dynamic in that laws are frequently updated. This phenomenon is something that obligates lawyers to consistently attend seminars and refresher courses. It’s only one of the reasons that it is so important to consult with a lawyer who specializes in family law. A general practitioner may not be aware of any legal changes which could negatively affect your case.