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Shabbat Parashat Yitro| 5766
Level of Support When Husband Does Not Live at Home - Based on Piskei Din Rabbaniim - vol. II, pp. 113-119
Case: A man desired to divorce his wife, but she and beit din turned down his request. He now lives separately. The wife claims that the level of support he provides her does not reflect his means and standard of living.
Ruling: In general a woman’s standard of living should rise to that of her husband and should not go down from that which she was accustomed to prior to marriage (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 70:3). The question is whether the evening out of the couple’s standards of living applies only when they live together or even when she lives separately.
The gemara (Ketubot 64b) assumes that, barring certain technical circumstances, a woman who is supported separately from her husband does not exceed her regular standard of living to match his. Rashi (ad loc.) understands this as the rule. However, according to the Ramban’s understanding of the Rif, that gemara, which the Rif does not cite, does not represent accepted halacha. A tosefta (Ketubot 5:8) assumes that even a woman who awaits yibum, and, thus, does not live with a husband, is supported on the higher level of support. Those who take Rashi’s approach must distinguish between a case where she is at least partially responsible for the couple living separately and a case of her husband’s death, where she did nothing to justify lowering her standard of living.
We must investigate possible causes for a couple not living in one household. The Rama (70:2) rules (against the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch) that he can separate only if the wife agrees to the arrangement. We then understand her agreement to be contingent on her maintaining the previous level of support. Where extenuating circumstances force separation, there is logic to saying that she might not be entitled to maintain a high level of support (this is apparently Tosafot’s opinion).
There are thus three opinions among Rishonim if a wife always maintains the high standard of living while living separately, does not maintain it, or maintains it only in a case where her permission for separation is needed. However, in our case, there should be no difference of opinion, for we are talking about a husband who unjustifiably neglects his wife (mored). The gemara (Ketubot 70b) discusses a woman who agreed to lower her standard of living in order to marry a certain man. He subsequently made an oath that made it impossible for them to live in the same household. The gemara says that when a third person sees to her support from his money, he does so at her original standard of living, because she agreed to put up with the lower one only when she received the benefits of normal married life. Similarly, in our case, since his leaving his wife represents unacceptable neglect of her, there is no reason that she should not maintain equivalent conditions to those that she would have had if they were living together.
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