Neeman backs nixing custody law favoring moms

Justice Minister embraces Schnitt C'tee recommendations to revoke law granting automatic custody to mothers in divorce.

January 19, 2012 15:21
3 minute read.
Mother and child

Mother and child. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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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.

A 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.

If 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 fight.

Women’s rights organization Na’amat released a statement saying that it would take all necessary measures to prevent the recommendations from being adopted.

“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 this law.”

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.

In contrast, 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 Western countries.

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