Mother and child.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman embraced Wednesday recommendations made by a
specially appointed panel to revoke a controversial custody law that
automatically favors mothers of young children in divorce disputes.
spokesman for Neeman told The Jerusalem Post that while the minister had yet to
fully adopt recommendations made by the Schnitt Committee, he did see the
suggestions as a viable solution to the problem of determining where to place
children when their parents get divorced.
UN calls on Israel to amend custody law
He said the recommendations,
which were made by a panel headed by Dr. Dan Schnitt that was established five
years to discuss the relevance of the 40 year old law, would now be passed onto
the ministry’s legal advisers to draft alternative legislation.
completely accepted, the new law will revoke article 25 of the Capacity and
Guardianship Law, known as the Tender Years Presumption Law, which automatically
awards custody of children under six to the mother. The law has come under fire
in recent years, with father’s rights groups pointing out that it is no longer
relevant in a modern society where men are just as involved in raising young
children as women.
Immediately after the ministry announced it received
the recommendations, women’s rights groups expressed concern that canceling this
presumption in the law would further complicate divorce proceedings, making the
issue of custody grounds for battle and drawing the children into the
Women’s rights organization Na’amat released a statement saying
that it would take all necessary measures to prevent the recommendations from
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“From our experience, we have seen that when couples can’t
agree on the terms of their divorce, custody issues become the basis for
financial blackmail and can cause serious damage to the children involved,” said
the NGO in a statement.
“Leaving the decision up to the courts is
dangerous for women, who are often not as financial secure as men and cannot
afford decent legal representation,” said Gila Oshrat, chairwoman of the Women’s
International Zionist Organization.
She added that only when “true
equality exists between the sexes in Israel will we be able to discuss canceling
Earlier this month, Schnitt discussed his recommendations at a
conference held at the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of
Women, Bar-Ilan University.
After presenting his suggestions, women’s
rights groups told the Post
they were alarmed that the panel had not provided
any viable alternatives.
Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, chairwoman of the
Rackman Center, a member of Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law and Israel’s
representative on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women, said that while Schnitt advocated canceling the law he had not presented
any “guiding principles in its place.”
She warned that such a vague
system could be disastrous, forcing couples involved in custody disputes to take
unprecedented measures against each other and expose children to the custody
process more than ever before.
Halperin-Kaddari also said that abolishing
the law in the name of equality was premature when Israeli society still had a
long way to go before there was true gender equality.
father’s rights group, the Coalition for Children and Family, which has been
advocating for changing this law, said it was time Israel revoked such unfair
legislation to bring it in line with similar custody laws that exist in other
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