Aliyah is a Noble Goal, but don’t Leave your Kids Behind!

Aliyah is the Hebrew term for Jewish immigration to Israel. While making Aliyah is a legitimate and voluntary immigration process, it should not be used as a means to evade financial responsibilities such as child support. Evading child support obligations is not only unethical but also illegal in many jurisdictions, including the United States.  We believe it is also completely immoral and propose a Call to Action at the end of this Article.

If someone attempts to make Aliyah or move to another country to avoid paying child support, they may still be legally obligated to fulfill their financial responsibilities to their child. Child support orders can often be enforced across international borders through legal agreements and treaties, including the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.

Moving to another country to avoid paying child support is a serious matter, and it can have legal consequences.  If your ex-spouse or the parent responsible for child support is planning to move to Israel to evade their financial obligations, you should take the following steps:

Consult an Attorney: Seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in family law or international child support matters. They can provide guidance on the specific legal steps you can take in your jurisdiction.

Notify Authorities: Contact your state’s child support enforcement agency and inform them of your concerns. They may be able to initiate international enforcement actions or work with the relevant authorities to prevent your ex from leaving the country.

International Treaty: The United States is a party to the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. This treaty allows for the enforcement of child support obligations across international borders. An attorney can help you navigate this process. The U.S. has reciprocal agreements in place with several other countries that allow child support orders to be enforced through the Secretary of State. The U.S. currently has treaties for enforcing child support with many countries, including Israel.

Enforce Existing Order: If you have an existing child support order, you can work with your attorney to enforce it through international channels and/or attorneys in Israel dealing with family law matters. This may include seeking assistance from the Israeli government and/or private attorneys in Israel to enforce the order.

Contact the Israeli Authorities: If your ex has already moved to Israel or is planning to move there, you may need to contact Israeli authorities to enforce the child support order. Israel has its own legal procedures for child support enforcement and laws governing non-payment of child support are quite harsh.  Someone in arrears of child support ordered by an Israeli court, whether the child or recipient is in Israel or not, can lead to a “stay of exit” order which will bar the debtor from leaving Israel until all of the arrears are paid.

Keep Documentation: Maintain thorough records of all communication, payments, and actions related to child support. This documentation can be crucial in legal proceedings.

Seek Legal Recourse: If your ex continues to evade child support responsibilities, you may need to consider legal action in both your home country and Israel. Your attorney can guide you through this process.

It’s important to understand that international child support enforcement can be complex and may involve diplomatic and legal efforts. Working with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in international family law is crucial in such cases. Additionally, cooperation between the United States and Israel through international treaties can help ensure that child support obligations are met, even when one parent resides in another country.

Aliyah Assistance, both financial and practical, is available through well-meaning organizations which can even offer money and cover the costs of a one-way flight to move to Israel.  It remains unclear how and when the organizations inquire as to the Aliyah-minded individual’s support obligations in the USA.  Also, we know from some of our clients that there are families in financial difficulty in the USA that resort to Aliyah as a means to achieve a “new start,” leaving their debts and obligations behind.  Some individuals might even declare bankruptcy before leaving for Israel, knowing their debts will get wiped out in 7 years.

However, child support obligations do not get wiped out.  While a process takes place under the Treaty in Israel to enforce the U.S. child support arrears, in the U.S. the arrears continue to accrue, and eventually, the person moving to Israel may get their U.S. passport confiscated, have their social security earnings garnished, and/or face a federal arrest warrant if they try to re-enter the USA.  While these remedies sound like a means to address a situation of arrears, one has to ask how it practically resolves the struggle of the parent and left-behind children who have insufficient means of support.  Enforcing a child support order extra-jurisdictionally can also be onerous and expensive.

I would like to suggest that the agencies that promote and support Aliyah should carefully screen the applicants to ensure that they are not using the process for improper means.  A divorced or separated applicant should be specifically asked about their obligations and should have to show a court order to substantiate their claim.  Simply asking the applicant on a questionnaire whether they are in arrears is insufficient, as a crafty absconder could lie, or time it so that they are not yet in arrears when they apply. There must be a concrete plan in place for the payment of the obligation in order for the Agency to assist with Aliyah, not just a vague statement that the debtor will continue to pay.

Serious means need to be implemented to prevent debtors from using an Aliyah organization as an unwitting accomplice for their desertion.  This type of screening could also help prevent the wrongful removal and retention of children to Israel, which is also a potential problem.  While careful screening Aliyah applications for financial ill-intentions may not guarantee that the process will be used genuinely, one hopes that it will raise awareness of the problem.

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