Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

When the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Parents are Divorced

December 6, 2012 5:11 pm 4 comments

Jewish boy reads Bar Mitzvah. Photo: Peter van der Sluijs.

Although festive and meaningful events, bar mitzvahs, like weddings, are always full of anxiety and stress. Even more so when the parents of the child are divorced!

Whether lavish or simple, the bar or bat mitzvah event requires an investment of time and money by the parents, and studying and preparation by the child.

When the parents are divorced there are additional issues which may arise:

  1. Who is paying for Hebrew school and bar mitzvah preparation?
  2. Who will get aliyahs?
  3. How expensive should the affair be? Catering? Number of attendees?  Invitations?  Entertainment?
  4. Where will the event be held?  Do each of the parents belong to a separate temple?
  5. Will both parents attend?  If one refuses to come, should he/she have to pay for the event?

A happy event for a child and family can quickly turn difficult.

In the State of New Jersey, the Court has broad discretion to award indirect child support related relief, including for bar and bat mitzvahs. The focus is always the best interest of the child and the parent’s financial ability to pay. The Court would look to determine if, where the parties still married, there would have been a bar/bat mitzvah and at what expense.

In a 2010 Appellate case in New Jersey, the parties went to court on several issues including alimony, counsel fees, future college expenses and bar mitzvah expenditures.  The dad paid $220,000 on his own for the bar mitzvah.  The lower Court commented that this should be considered when looking at the parent’s future responsibility for the child’s educational expenses and the parties’ responsibilities.  The Appellate Division said the college education issue was not before the Court yet, so Dad’s expenditure could not yet be “considered with reference to other financial obligations.”

In New York there is an additional case, which I find interesting and thoughtful.  Mom made an application to the Court to require dad to pay $5,000.00 to cover the cost of the son’s bar mitzvah, but Dad said it was unconstitutional for a Court to order his contribution to a religious event. The Court in its decisions described the history and meaning of the bar mitzvah:

“In latter years, the celebration portion of the ceremony has been augmented by many Jewish families in a large and ostentatious manner at considerable expense.  This practice is not looked upon with favor by the Rabbinate, who argue that parents should emphasize the sanctity of the occasion and should not demean it by undue emphasis in the societal aspects of the celebration. While Kiddish and the sharing of a festive light meal are customs of long standing, ostentatious and lavish display should be avoided.”

The Court determined that the two Jewish parents would have had a bar mitzvah celebration for their son if they were still happily married, so the Court was not imposing a religious requirement which would not have happened under happier circumstances, when it required the father to contribute.

As I always like to advise in all of my divorce and post-judgment cases, if you can make a decision about your life or your children’s lives without the input of a judge you are much better off.  Also, the cost of litigation will certainly cut into the funds available for the bar/bat mitzvah and the other needs of the children.

If divorcing parties litigate issues of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they might get a Jewish Judge or they might get someone who has little to no knowledge of the event and tradition, resulting in a way off base decision.  In the prior case, Mom asked for $5,000.00.  Dad offered $50.00.  The Court awarded $1,000.00.  Was this worth the cost to litigate?

If people are divorcing and there will be future Bar/Bat Mitzvah expenses, to me it makes sense to contemplate this as specifically as possible in a Property Settlement Agreement. Issues to be addressed include cost and agreement on religious school education, temple dues, arrangements regarding transporting children to religious education, parameters of the event and budget.

I am divorced myself and can certainly sympathize with the issues clients are experiencing.  For my son’s bar mitzvah we planned a Havdalah service that was supposed to be followed by a small party outside the temple with kid’s activities and a dinner for close friends and family.  But Hurricane Sandy flooded our venue a few days before and I had to change the plans.  I made a nicer dinner at temple and a kid’s sports day on Sunday.  The cost was pretty much the same and everyone was helpful.  And the cost of the party did not cut into our allocation for my son’s future education.

Tanya N. Helfand has been practicing family law for over 20 years.  She litigates, mediates, and provides collaborative matrimonial services. She can be reached at tanyah@tanyahelfand.com.

4 Comments

  • This doesn’t have to be so difficult. Whether or not both parents are Jewish, make provision for the cost of the education and the bar/bat mitzvah in the decree. Keep the celebration simple, as it ought to be anyway, and split the costs. Don’t forget to note that study in the year before the ceremony may cut into time with both parents, and include reasonable costs for any necessary tutoring.

    I am a single Jewish mother with a non-Jewish ex-husband; most of these things are in my degree. My ex is no longer cooperative, but it doesn’t matter, and he has the money. There’s a long email trail of requests to him for input about guest lists, expenses, etc., none of which he’s answered. Our kiddush and party will be quite simple, and friends will help with food preparation. After the party I’ll collect the receipts, bundle them with other obligations my ex is trying to slip out of, and let the lawyer take them to the judge. I don’t think there’ll be any trouble collecting.

  • Divorce is a Rampant Epidemic especially when the government & military is behind it!

    I went to a father’s group in Texas (just north of Fort Hood) where some ex-military west pointer gave some real eye-opening comments. He basically said that the current Divorce process, legislation, court system and military is all one scheme that was put into play around the early 1960’s. It was put in place for the Vietnam War, that’s when the divorces started to sky-rocket across the country (Google statistics). That in addition, it was also designed to be one huge cash-cow to lure greedy lawyers to facilitate and destroy more families on the civilian side to get enough statistics to make it comparable to the military statistics. However the military numbers are still much higher. That is why they then modified the scheme to use on police nationwide to raise the civilian stats as most are ex-military and won’t suspect anything wrong. It is designed to send single male soldiers to war and deny ex-wives any financial support that was initially and may still be coming from the military/ pentagon’s money pockets. To the military, the soldiers wives are expendable as are the soldiers and also their children! Less money the military spends on wives, kids, ex-soldiers, etc the more they have for their drones, guns, or bullets. The scheme is very very complicated but based on very slow very subtle psy-ops brainwashing tactics. He said that any Freedom of Information request will gradually reveal key pieces of data that when analyzed together with confirm all this. Talking about this among other soldiers would also reveal stuff, so they came up with “leave your family problems at home” and the “zero tolerance” to divorce and get the spouses or soldiers out of the service quickly before they talk and expose the scheme. This is also the reason why the Pentagon does not want to release documents related to divorce. Part of the even bigger Military-Industrial complex.

    Basically makes wives and soldier fight and hate each other. The scheme basically exploits women’s emotional traits to spread itself to other victims. The media contributes to the fear mongering and makes things worst. Fear (PTSD etc) makes women fear for their safety or some play the helpless damsel in distress thus they then go pleading to the oh-so-willing authorities who provide them with military issued cookie cutter divorce packets to take to a civilian lawyer. They do this to hide where the process initially starts.

  • Is there any case law regarding Bar Mitzvah cost sharing if the other parent is not Jewish?

  • AS A BORN JEW IN A ORTHODOX COMMUNITY IN BROOKLYN I ASK THIS QUESTION:

    Arafat invented the term palsitinian,I know that.
    Abraham Aveinu recognized’ONE G-D’, Iknow that.
    Moses Moshe Rabbeinu brought down the LAWS,Iknow that.

    **where did a bat mitzvah come from other then feminisism movements.Frankly I dont care.
    WHY ARE YOU CHANGING TRADITION OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS?
    There is no basis for such a thing. why are you trying to make woman in competition with a man?
    Isnt a woman exulted and praised enough and more in Judaism?
    WOMAN SURE ARE.
    ….DONT ANSWER ME.
    ITS ONLY RHETORICAL QUESTIONS…

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Pro golfer Laetitia Beck said she is honored to have been selected to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil largely because of her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. “Everywhere I go, I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through,” she told the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). “Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot […]

    Read more →