(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
A proposal to put the good of the child first in custody cases received Ministerial Committee for Legislation authorization Sunday.
The so-called “parents and children bill” by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) would cancel the clause automatically giving mothers custody of children under age six in divorce cases, requiring courts to examine what is good for the child, instead.
According to Kisch, the current law created “an absurd situation in which the legal system does not consider the interests of children of separated parents.”
The bill was proposed in the past by now-Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, and supported by then-justice minister Tzipi Livni, but did not pass before the last election.
The initiative is based on the findings of a committee Livni appointed, led by Prof. Dan Schnitt, which found that the law’s wording granted custody to the mother for all of a couple’s children under six, in order to keep them together, but did not consider the welfare of a child turned six. The Schnitt Committee recommended eliminating the clause in 2008.
Kisch’s bill also states that everyone under age 18 has the right to meet and be in contact with both parents and have both of them be responsible for them – including taking care of their health, education, and morals – together or apart. In addition, one parent may not teach the child to disrespect the other, and major decisions about children’s lives cannot be made without consent from the other parent.
The bill would also regulate how to deal with custody if a divorced parent moves abroad.
Though the ministers approved the bill, it will not move forward until the government proposes its own version within two months.
While the bill includes extensive sections going beyond the UN Convention on Children’s Rights, to which Israel is a party – for example, a clause saying children have the right to be educated to respect everyone’s basic rights – Kisch’s office said the ministerial approval is contingent on these being dropped. In order to move forward, the bill will focus on issues relating to divorce and custody.
Kisch also plans to submit a bill to change the way child support payments are determined. He proposes taking both parents’ salaries and the amount of custody each parent has over the children into consideration, based on the recommendations of the 2012 Shifman Committee.
“Israeli law clearly harms the children of separated parents,” Kisch stated. “In the framework of this bill, I will work to fix the injustice...for children and for integrity and fairness.”
Last year, Tamar Har-Paz, an attorney who works on alimony cases and a Likud central committee member affiliated with former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, recruited 200 divorced fathers to join the party and create a pressure group.
The fathers’ goals are to convince Likud legislators to adopt the Schnitt and Shifman committees’ recommendations.
Har-Paz was inspired by Feiglin, who enlisted thousands of Likud members with an eye to pushing the party rightward, and the MK expressed his support for the move after meeting with the divorced fathers’ group.
One of every three marriages in Israel ends in a divorce, which means that there is a lot of potential for fathers and their relatives to join the Likud, Har-Paz pointed out.