Dissertation Abstracts

Entitlements or Gifts? The Earmarking of Child Support, Special and Extraordinary Payments for Divorced Parents Children in Israel

Author: Rubinstein, Daphna , rubinsteind@gmail.com
Department: Sociology and Anthropology
University: Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Supervisor: Prof Orly Benjamin
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: Child Support , Gender , Stereotype , Money
Areas of Research: Social Psychology , Family Research , Law


Child support payments and special and extraordinary expenses (educational and medical) rely upon divorce rulings and are recognized by the state. In the official legal sphere they are defined as basic entitlements of children, following international treaties and the law. When needed, they can be collected by the Child Support Execution office (henceforth: CSE).

Today, men's and women's organizations are engaged in a struggle regarding the legitimacy of these monies, as well as these monies' definition as entitlements – what the literature describes as the earmarking of money. Zelizer claims that one can earmark a transfer of money between parties in three principle ways: as an entitlement, as a gift, or as compensation. The importance of these struggles lies in the legal backing that state institutions grant to the marking: Collection of money marked as a gift cannot be enforced, as opposed to money marked as an entitlement or as compensation.

Disputes over the earmarking of money are expressed in the phenomenon of refusal to pay, manifested in Israel today in a collective debt of fathers to their children totaling 3 Million American dollars. Despite the legal earmarking of child support as entitlement and the definition of special and extraordinary expenses in divorce rulings as obligatory, only 6% of requests for collection are fully accepted by the CSE. These contradictions in official policy call for an examination of the mechanisms that earmark these debts.

Therefore, the present study applies an analytical framework of earmarking of monies, alongside a theoretical framework focused on stereotyping processes. Previous studies in Australia that focused on child support payments from an earmarking perspective identified the phenomenon that is described here as earmarking gaps. They found that mothers and clerks earmark support payments as entitlement, while fathers mark them as gifts. Studies conducted in the US show that clerks identify gender-wise with mothers who dare to sue for the children's money and to collect it.

In this study, I examined the Israeli context, focusing on the distinction that is missing in the literature between child support payments and special and extraordinary expenses. Because the institutional-legal status of these two types of monies differs in practice, the distinction between them offered me the empirical possibility of addressing the earmarking gaps between them and of conceptualizing this theoretically. Therefore, one of the main objectives of this study was to examine not only the earmarking of child support payments, but also that of special and extraordinary expenditures, both in everyday life and by the CSE clerks. Another objective was to study whether female CSE clerks identify with mothers.

In my study, I looked at the earmarking of child support and special and extraordinary expenses by 43 interviewees (lawyers. mothers, clerks), including tracking CSE collection software.

The findings show that the typology of the earmarking of money that exists in the literature – is not sensitive enough to the diversity of earmarking in the lives of divorced families. In order to sharpen the definition of the various types of earmarking, I used the term split earmarking.