The ministerial committee on legislation is set to approve a governmental bill
by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Sunday that could result in divorce cases
being settled more fairly.
Livni’s associates termed the bill nothing
less than a “legal and societal revolution.”
The current law
automatically grants custody of children under six to their mother unless there
are special reasons not to, due to a controversial clause about children’s
A committee Livni appointed, which was headed by
Prof. Dan Schnitt, found that the tender years clause resulted in custody
for all of a couple’s children being granted to the mother when one of the
children is under six, in order to keep the children together.
child became six, custody was not reconsidered, so as not to change the
lifestyle to which the children had grown accustomed.
Since the Schnitt
Committee recommended eliminating the tender years clause altogether in 2008,
judges already started granting joint custody for children under six. But Livni
decided to compromise and keep the clause in tact for children up to age
Livni’s spokeswoman stressed that even among children two and under,
if professionals and welfare authorities recommend that the father be given
custody, judges would be permitted to make such a decision for the good of the
The bill recommends declaring both parents legally responsible for
their children and guarantees the rights of the children to a relationship with
both their parents. For the first time, the children would need to be consulted
about their future.
Divorcing couples would need to seek mediation before
going to court and are to be asked to submit to the court an agreement about
education and health issues and how to divide their children’s
Courts are to be given the means to fine and punish parents who
violate the terms of agreement. The bill clarifies what happens when a parent
wants to leave the country.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said changing the
tender years clause before removing divorce from the authority of the Chief
Rabbinate would harm divorcing mothers and their children.
She said she
would propose an alternative bill that would maintain the clause for children
under six but create more exceptions that would enable fathers to be granted
custody or at least give them more time with their children.
“In the name
of equality, Livni’s proposal adopts policies that favor men,” Gal-On
“Livni put the cart before the horse and dealt with what is ideal
and not with what is happening. Fathers still earn more than mothers, who often
leave their jobs to raise their children.”
Guy Raveh, who heads the
organization Shared Parenting = The Good of the Child, called Livni’s decision
to keep the tender years clause in tact for children up to two “a political
compromise that will prevent necessary societal change.”
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