Shabbat Parashat Balak| 5765
Denial of Being Husband/Father - Condensed from Piskei Din Rabbaniim - vol. IV, pp. 84-92
Case: A woman (pl)sued a man (def) for support for herself and her son, claiming that he is her husband and the father of their child. Def responded that although they live in the same house, they were never married and did not live as husband and wife (and the child is not his). (Def and pl came as adults from chutz la’aretz). Pl brought proof that def had asserted before a government agency that the family was his, but he explains that he did so to get governmental support, despite the fact that the assertion was false. The public knows the “family” as a family, but def claims that pl entered his home just as a housekeeper.
Ruling: Def needs to raise only a reasonable doubt in order to prevent money being extracted from him, but to do so, he must make a valid amatla (excuse for statements or actions that create an assumption of a prohibition or obligation). In this case, he must overcome a few obstacles.
1) This amatla is not just to remove a prohibition but to overcome someone else’s possible, monetary rights. There is a machloket whether this is possible (see K’tzot Hachoshen 80,81). Def can say kim li (I am confident) like the opinions that an amatla can accomplish that, especially where the statement he needs to explain was made not as an admission, but as an attempt to receive money (see Nachal Yitzchak 80).
2) There is a public assumption based on general behavior of people (chazaka)that def and pl are married. Chazakot are grounds even for capital punishment (e.g. in cases of incest between people with a chazaka that they are close relatives). However, for us to assume that a couple is halachically married, the Rambam (Issurei Bi’ah 1:21) also requires statements by the two that they are married. The Noda B’yehuda (I, EH 54) explains that otherwise it is possible that they were married on a condition that was not fulfilled. In our times, when it is common for people to live together without a halachic marriage, neither people’s assumptions nor the couple’s statement that they are married are proof that there were valid kiddushin.
3) An amatla is invalid if it depends on the claimant’s having done a clear aveira (Chut Hashani 17). Here, def’sclaimed lie to the government means that he stole from them. However, one can counter that since he supported the “family” and was like a husband/father in practice, he can rationalize that he deserved governmental support. The problem is that he did not claim in beit din that he acted like a husband/father but that they simply lived in his house. According to that claim, the amatla is plausible only if he intended to steal, and we do not accept it.
Therefore, the amatla is invalid, and def will have to pay support for those whom he once admitted constitute his family.
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