Shabbat Parashat Eikev| 5765
Self-Obligation of Mother to Support herChildren - From Piskei Din Rabbaniim- vol. VI, pp. 248-249
[The following is a summary of a short p’sak din, handed down in response to an appeal of a ruling of a regional court. The first ruling (which appears in the book before this one) is too long to summarize in this forum but serves as background for the editor’s notes.]
Case: A couple got divorced and agreed in their settlement to the following arrangement. The wife would receive custody of their two children and would receive permanent, full control of their apartment and furnishings. In return, the mother assumed full responsibility to support the children until age 18. After some time, the mother sued the father on her children’s behalf for child support.
Ruling: [Ed. note- children are entitled to support from their parents, classically, from their father, primarily. In this case, if the mother is not able or required to support the children, as she ostensibly obligated herself, then the obligation returns to the father. The mother’s agreement with the father cannot come at the expense of the children. Therefore, it is crucial to decide whether the mother’s obligation stands.]
The agreement between the husband and wife was brought to beit din to be given the status of a court ruling, and this was done as a condition to his agreement to divorce. Therefore, we have every reason to assume that the beit din which oversaw the process performed the necessary kinyan (act of acquisition or obligation) that made the mother’s self-obligation binding.
In this case, we can go a step further. In the divorce settlement, the husband’s permanent transfer of control of his portion of their jointly owned apartment was explicitly linked to the wife’s acceptance of responsibility to support the children, explicitly waiving the right to demand support from him in the future. When one receives real estate from another, he becomes obligated in a monetary payment to the one who transfers it to him. The transfer is the kinyan on the corresponding obligation. Therefore, in our case, where the monetary obligation for the wife’s receiving of control of the house was in the form of her acceptance of child support obligations, there is no need for a further kinyan on that obligation.
[Ed. note- would the mother be unable to support the children from her own assets, then the obligation would return to the father and, as the children are above the age of six, it would take on the form of mandatory tzedaka. However] the mother did not demonstrate that she was incapable of supporting the children. [Ed. note- the mother also did not claim that the original agreement was made under duress or was otherwise flawed.] Therefore, the father is not obligated to provide financial support for his children as matters presently stand.
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