Gavel from Reuters 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday issued an interim freeze
against an order of the Shari’a Court of Appeals in Israel that would have led
to transferring custody of two children from the mother to the father in a
The conflict pits the civil court system against the
Shari’a courts (which can serve Muslims living in Israel), with the Jaffa
Shari’a Court having said it can overrule a prior decision of the Haifa District
Court granting temporary custody to the mother.
According to a Justice
Ministry statement, the facts of the case are as follows: The couple married in
1999 and have two children, ages nine and 13.
The couple split after the
husband started physically abusing the wife, with the wife running away from
their home in the North with their two children to live in the central
In 2008, the mother filed a request with the Kiryot Family Court
to obtain custody of the children as well as alimony and maintenance payments
from the father.
There was significant litigation on the issues before
the Kiryot court and a number of social-worker evaluations of the parents, with
the court granting the mother temporary custody and obligating the father to
undergo further tests regarding his competence as a parent.
father’s failure to cooperate with the officials empowered to evaluate him and
with the court in general and his failure to pay maintenance per the court’s
order, the court froze the case (with the children in the indefinite temporary
custody of the mother) until the father came into compliance with the court’s
Simultaneously, the father initiated parallel custody
proceedings before the Jaffa Shari’a Court, in which he contended for the first
time that the mother was a Muslim.
While there is no dispute that the
father is Muslim, the mother has always claimed to be unconnected to any
religion and the father insisted on moving the kids into Muslim schools whereas
they have been learning in secular state schools for years.
the Jaffa Shari’a Court granted the father custody while the Haifa District
Court upheld the Kiryot Family Court ruling in favor of the mother and said that
the shari’a courts had no jurisdiction.
However, following the father’s
ignoring that ruling and obtaining a ruling from the Shari’a Court of Appeals
that the Shari’a courts had jurisdiction, the Haifa District Court told the
mother that she could only obtain further relief from the High Court.
Justice Ministry’s Legal Assistance Division on Monday filed a petition with the
High Court that quickly blocked any continuation and enforcement of the Shari’a
courts’ proceedings until it decides whether custody should be decided in the
civilian or the Shari’a courts.
The petition’s ultimate goal is to void
all Shari’a court decisions on the issue and to uphold the civilian courts’
decisions in favor of the mother.