Shabbat Parashat Eikev| 5764
Child Support for a Child who is Already Earning Money - Excerpt from Piskei Din Rabbani’im (pp. 298-301)
Case: A father agreed to pay 300 liras per child for child support as part of his divorce settlement until his children reach the age of eighteen. His teenage daughter now earns 250 liras a month, and the father wants to reduce that money from the child support, as the previous level of support is now unnecessary.
Ruling: There are two possible ways to accept the father’s claim that he can reduce his child support payments because of his daughter’s earnings, and we will deal with one at a time.
There is room to suggest that the original intention of the father’s self-obligation was to pay child support as long as they were at an age at which one could assume that the money is necessary, which is often at age eighteen. However, under the current circumstances, that the daughter works, the support at previous levels is unnecessary, and, therefore, never included in his original intentions. The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 60:3) writes as follows: “Some say that if one accepts upon himself to support his friend without stipulations, it implies all the days of his life or as long as he needs it.” It is unclear why the Rama gives two different interpretations of the implication of the obligation without ruling which is correct. The S’ma (ad loc.:15) explains as follows. If the recipient was not in specific need at the time of the obligation, we can assume that the obligation was for his whole life. If he was in need, then the obligation is assumed to be only as long as the need continues. Following these lines, on can say that the father’s obligation in regard to his daughter was done when she was in need and should cease or decrease along with the need.
However, the Taz asks on the S’ma’s approach from the gemara that if one accepts to feed his wife’s daughter, and she gets fed by someone else, that he has to give the monetary value of the accepted support. To answer the question, the Chacham Tzvi distinguishes between an open-ended obligation, which ends when the need goes away, and one limited by time, which continues until that time even when the need disappears. Thus, in our case, where the child support is limited to the age of eighteen, it will continue until that time.
But perhaps the father can claim that he should be able to benefit from the halacha that when children are dependant on their father for support, he is entitled to their earnings (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 270:2). The reason for this rule is that we want to avoid a situation of eivah (animosity), as the father may resent the fact that he is supporting a child, who is unwilling to give him things he finds or earnings that come his way during that period. However, this applies only when the supporter does so based on his continuing good will, which, of course, could stop at any time. But, points out the Taz (ad loc.), when the brothers are required to support their sister from the estate of their late father or when a father obligates himself to support his children in a legally binding manner, they are not required to share their earnings with him. In this case, then, the father is not entitled to receive his daughter’s earnings.
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