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June 29, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In case anyone has doubts about the willingness of those opposed to children’s welfare and children having meaningful relationships with both parents post-divorce to thwart anything that even hints at improving children’s access to their fathers, this should dispel them (Jerusalem Post, 6/26/16).

Fathers’ rights campaigners in Israel have long complained about what is surely the most archaic and anti-child feature of Israeli law regarding child custody – its retention of the Tender Years Doctrine. In Israeli law, that’s called the “early childhood clause.” Under it, mothers receive custody of any child under the age of six. All considerations except the child’s age are off the table. Is the mother mentally unbalanced, abusive, a drunk, a drug addict? It makes no difference. Is Dad a paragon of virtue and paternal love? It makes no difference. Mom gets custody. Period.

Needless to say, that is sexist, but worse, it’s bad for children. By automatically privileging mothers over fathers, the clause endangers children and marginalizes fathers in their lives. That of course tends to produce all the childhood problems with which fatherless children are well known to grapple.

So various ministers of government have decided to repeal the early childhood clause and give children a fighting chance at retaining a relationship with Dad when the adults split up.

Automatic custody for divorced mothers of small children may become a thing of the past, after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved canceling the controversial “early childhood clause” under which, in a divorce, mothers automatically get primary custody of children under age six without taking other conditions into consideration.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel had proposed canceling the clause before she joined the cabinet, and MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) took up the cause afterwards. The ministers approved the bill in November, but the opposition managed to vote it down, and it has now returned to the committee after the requisite six-month waiting period.

That’s right, this is the second time the proposed cancellation of the clause has been recommended only to see “the opposition” bat it down. And who is that opposition?

Women’s groups and many left-wing lawmakers have strongly opposed canceling the early childhood clause, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked vacillated, as well…

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On criticized the bill, however, saying it will hurt mothers and children and turn children into bargaining chips and a way to pressure mothers to forfeit child support.

Yes, women’s groups and their enablers among the Left oppose the bill. And what is their beef? First, it will “hurt mothers” by possibly depriving them of child support money. Here in the U.S. it’s one of the standard arguments against any improvement in children’s ability to see their fathers that dads only want to see their children in order to reduce their payments. The reality is that women’s groups who oppose meaningful relationships between fathers and children don’t want to see a reduction in the transfer of assets from men to women. (The same holds true for their objection to alimony reform.) At least in Israel they admit it.

How would elimination of the clause “hurt children?” It wouldn’t. It would give judges the option of choosing the better parent rather than being required to turn the kids over to Mom irrespective of her fitness or their best interests. And of course, in the great majority of cases, children benefit from retaining both parents in their lives.

As to making children bargaining chips, they already are. How many mothers leave their husband before the child turns six for the sole purpose of ensuring custody? Again, here in the U.S. child custody is the overwhelming reason why it’s mothers who file the vast majority of divorce cases. Why would it be different in Israel?

The fact of the matter is that, by giving fathers the opportunity to get custody of their kids, the removal of the early childhood clause would allow judges to assess the parents’ fitness and make custody decisions accordingly. In short, judges would have a shot at acting in the best interests of the child instead of simply ordering the same custody in every case in which children haven’t reached age six. We often hear the cry that 50/50 parenting laws would apply a “one-size-fits-all” formula to every case and every child. That’s nonsense of course, but why do we not hear the same complaint against the Tender Years Doctrine that does exactly that?

I think we know why. We don’t hear that complaint for the same reason that “women’s groups” and family lawyers oppose every proposed law that would improve, however slightly, children’s opportunity to maintain real relationships with their dads post-divorce. Women’s groups oppose any cession of power by women to men, even if it means greater freedom and prosperity for women themselves and greater happiness for children. The lawyers of course just want to make their yacht payments and conflict in family court is the best way they can see of doing so.

Let’s be clear. Doing away with the Tender Years Doctrine is basic. It’s not only basic, it’s merely a weak blow in favor of fathers. The U.S. hasn’t relied on it for decades and mothers’ power over children and fathers has survived essentially intact. The same would follow in Israel. This all forces the conclusion that women’s groups aren’t acting on principle, but for the sake of naked power. They demand that mothers retain virtually complete control over the process of divorce and child custody and everything that follows. The welfare of children must take a backseat to that, as of course must fathers’ rights.

Let’s hope wiser and less ideologically-bound voices prevail.

Gamliel said the existing law is “archaic and unjust” and the new bill is good news for thousands of families.

“The faster we pass the bill in three readings in the Knesset, the better it will be for everyone, especially these children. I hope that the discrimination between divorced parents will end very soon and that, because of the cancellation [of the early childhood clause] parenting will be totally equal,” Gamliel stated.

Kisch called on MKs to “stand with the children” to pass the bill, saying: “The ministerial committee and most Israelis understand that children deserve to have two parents.”

Indeed, I suspect most Israelis understand exactly that, just as most Americans do. But because a tiny minority of people are bitterly opposed to even the slightest reduction in mothers’ power in family courts, children and fathers are left out in the cold. Such is the world in which we live.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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