Attorney Avivit Moskovich in an interview for the website “Baby Li” – on the subject of alternative parenting including visitation arrangements, custody, alimony and more…

Does financial cooperation need to be a function of each side’s degree of involvement, thus reducing the prospects for battles?  For example if the father’s involvement is predefined as being limited, should that be expressed in lower alimony payments?

Attorney Moskovich: “Logic, human considerations and the law dictate that the father participate in the financial burden in a manner unconnected to the degree of his involvement.  I say this not only as an attorney, but also as a mother.  Furthermore, as the degree of his involvement lessens, his payments should be higher for the welfare of the child.  For example, if the child stays with the mother for most of the week, the burden falls on her shoulders and she shouldn’t be carrying that alone.  Even if the mother declares ahead of time that she doesn’t need any assistance, one should assume that the day will come when she asks the father to participate in the financial burden.  It should be remembered that in contrast with the situation of a married couple divorcing—where the wife is well aware of the father’s assets—when sharing finances without living together, she doesn’t have enough information to prove his earning ability.  Similarly, the father also lacks such information concerning the mother.  In order to avoid these scenarios as well as future money disputes it is desirable to draft a fair agreement that includes defined options for inserting changes in the future.”

Or perhaps simply to declare ahead of time 50-50 cooperation for the essentials?

Psychologist Barak Stein: “I think that financial cooperation needs to be determined wisely and judiciously, without the rigidity of a 50-50 arrangement.  If the father earns significantly more than the mother, then he contributes more financially.  And if the mother needs to take care of the child for more hours, there’s a “payment” for that.  Just as in divorce cases, where there are flexible arrangements based on circumstances and financial situation, the same consideration should be part of the shared parenting model.  The content of an agreement should make both sides feel comfortable; the agreement is the starting point and the basis for flexible adjustments in the interest of improving day-to-day life.”

Attorney Moskovich: “And you need to also take into account that the mother’s earning ability during the first year suffers.  Therefore, in addition to the expenses involved during that period, it is all the more so fitting that the father’s alimony payment be higher than a 50-50 split.”

The financial and emotional aspects behind the issue of money:
by Shirli Golan

In this modern age, money long ago ceased to be solely a means for supplying basic needs of subsistence; rather, it is a highly influential factor on the level of our lives, fulfilling our dreams, and the quality of life we wish to ensure for our children.  Indeed, bringing a child into the world is an extremely meaningful decision accompanied by a great deal of emotion, enjoyment, and anticipation.  But one must never forget that such a decision is dependent on financial aspects, among others.  We all know that raising a child costs a lot of money, but one’s attitude to money is undoubtedly a subjective matter.  Thus, both parents don’t always see things eye to eye in terms of how much money to give, how much to save, what to invest in, how and when to invest.

Does raising a child through a joint parenting model, in which the parents live apart and typically don’t share the same bank account, make dividing up the financial burden more difficult?  And how can we determine a money distribution that assures that the needs of the child are satisfied in the long term, without generating friction and battles?  Should the burden be equally distributed or should it be according to the degree of each side’s involvement?  And perhaps money is totally unconnected to quantities of paper money but rather more of an expression of feelings and emotional needs?

In order to find the answers to such questions and more, we turned to Cheli Barak Stein, and educational psychologist, and Avivit Moskovich, a family law attorney.

“We need to discuss all of these matters ahead of time in order to create clarity and chart out the future,” attorney Avivit Moskovich begins.  “People aren’t always inclined to address such matters seriously, but rather they assume that things will work out.  They only focus on the pleasant aspects of raising a child.  True, we’re not always aware of each and every need ahead of time, such as health or special education; but still, the parents need to determine a long-term financial arrangement between them and stipulate it in a formal agreement.”

And what about the wish to raise the child according to a specific standard of living, when the decision on the exact standard might be in dispute?

Attorney Moskovich: “When you’re talking about raising a child, legally speaking there is no place for discussing the standard of living but rather satisfying essential needs.  This is the yardstick used by the courts in determining alimony.  Even in discussing extracurricular activities for example, they take into account how extensive demand is for the activity; naturally one cannot demand prestigious classes unless both parents agree on it or if they have high earning ability.”

Why is money such a sensitive subject and how can one overcome its repercussions in day-to-day life?

Psychologist Barak Stein: “Money is primarily an emotional factor that runs our lives.  It connects with one’s sense of value—who makes more and who makes less, who has a higher social status?  Money evokes anxiety and vulnerability: ‘Will I have enough to fulfill all my needs?’  It also connects with struggles of power and control, i.e., the person having more is stronger and is the one who gives while the person with less is weaker and receives.

In the matter of parenthood, money is also associated with guilt—why don’t I have enough to give to my family and my children?

Often, it is hard for us to remain calm and businesslike in money matters, to control our feelings and handle money with a practical approach.  Furthermore, one should bear in mind that we all have our own positions and feelings concerning money, which were already formed in childhood.  In order to overcome such difficulties, we need to be open, fair, ready to talk, and able to compromise.  Above all, it is important that the parents remain focused on the child’s welfare—above all other petty considerations.”

What are the main aspects the parents need to take into account when dividing up the financial burden?

First of all you need to consider the burden of expenses.  In terms of raising a child, the first six years involve higher expenses than later on.  These include expenses on caretakers, diapers, milk substitutes, kindergarten, daycare and more.  As the years pass, expenses decrease.  The law recognizes that alimony for a small child needs to be set at a higher amount and the courts invariably attend to the welfare of the child.  In Israel, as opposed to other countries, the law sees no problem in a child being born out of wedlock.  The child’s welfare is always paramount and when the court decides on alimony, the decision has nothing to do with the portion the parents feel they need to assume in raising the child.

Setting alimony payments corresponds to the income of the parents.  It is important to remember that the alimony framework is subject to change, according to changes in circumstances over time—for example a significant decrease in income, problems in raising the child that require special care, and so forth.  I recommend a graded alimony scheme, with higher payments in the beginning and increasingly lower payments as the child grows up and his/her needs decrease.”

Beyond a graded alimony scheme and visitation arrangements, what other points are important to be included in the agreement between the parents?

“Since this is an alternative model involving a family with no marriage and an alternative form of parenting, the agreement must take into consideration the benefits given to one-parent families from various bodies.  Furthermore, National Insurance benefits for a child are usually given to the mother since she is typically the child’s custodian.  If it becomes necessary to pay for medical expenses or for exceptional educational expenses in the years to come, it is customary to split the expenses 50-50.

As for visitation arrangements – these must be specified through specific days and times.  Other matters should also be discussed such as:  Should a change of clothes be permanently available at both the mother’s and father’s house, or should only the mother handle this?  What is to be done in cases of holidays or family events that fall on days that the child is with one parent or the other?  Such matters need to be arranged and clearly defined.  Above all, we must remember that a child is more than just an object that changes hands.

Expenses for a first child are particularly high—is it fitting for the father to take part in purchasing the items for the baby’s room including furniture and devices needed during infancy, when the child sleeps only/primarily at the mother’s house?

“Absolutely.  The father needs to participate in these expenses as they concern the needs of his child.  Such expenses shouldn’t be only the mother’s responsibility, even if she earns an excellent salary.  There needs to be a fair division of expenses here.”

Psychologist Barak Stein agrees with attorney Avivit Moskovich and stresses:  “The money doesn’t go to the mother for her gain or pleasure at the expense of the father.  The money goes for the welfare of the child.  It is absolutely fitting for the father to participate in expenses for furniture as well as apartmental expenses (housing costs and regular expenses such as water, electricity, gas and phone)—as is customary in divorce agreements.  In my opinion, if the father feels exploited or if the mother feels deprived, then matters need to be examined thoroughly, because it’s possible that this is an emotional rather than financial matter.  You need to assess what’s happening in the relations between the parents, because fights over money are likely to be symptomatic of other problems between them.  As in all families, money is an emotional matter.”

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