When the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Parents are Divorced

December 6, 2012 5:11 pm 3 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.

3 Comments

  • 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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.