August 24, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I’ve said before that, however awful family courts are for fathers and children in the U.S., we can’t hold a candle to the ones in Israel. Things U.S. fathers take for granted would seem godsends to Israeli dads. The fact that the system is governed by the Tender Years Doctrine under which mothers automatically get sole custody of any child under the age of seven is one obvious outrage. Another is that fathers ordered to pay child support can’t leave the country without posting a bond in the amount of the entire obligation. So if there are 10 years left to pay and the monthly child support amount is the Israeli equivalent of $500, then the amount of the bond is $60,000. Needless to say, many fathers can’t afford that.
But this article adds considerable detail to what we already know about the plight of fathers and children in Israel (Israel National News, 8/11/17). Much of the article we see through the eyes of a grandmother, Sarah, whose son’s contact with his child is astonishingly restricted.
But before I get to the fathers, it seems Israeli family courts, like those in the U.K. don’t want the public to know what they’re up to.
Divorced fathers in Israel recently began holding weekly protests outside Tel Aviv's court after Israeli judges jailed a lawyer and two reporters for exposing a social worker's injustices.
The three had claimed father's rights and children's rights are being violated, since the court deprives children of building a relationship with their fathers by forcing them to meet in a supervised center, instead of a more natural setting. One of the journalists was jailed for publishing voice recordings and videos of a social worker.
Yes, we can’t have the public learning about the injustices perpetrated by social workers against fathers and children. If those were to become public knowledge, the system might have to change and, well, we can’t have that.
Apart from the three being arrested for telling the public the truth, there’s that little matter of courts forcing fathers to meet their children in supervised centers. Keep in mind, these are fathers against whom no finding of unfitness, child abuse or neglect has been made. But they can only see their children in unnatural settings, overseen by strangers and for only the briefest periods of time.
Currently, couples can divorce without agreeing on child custody. In those cases, the children will see their non-custodial parent in a supervised "contact center" only, until the agreements are finalized.
And why would that be? With no evidence of danger by Dad to the child, why go to the expense and inconvenience of a “supervised contact center?” Given that essentially all non-custodial parents in Israel are fathers, it looks like another case of anti-father bias. Unsurprisingly, the system is ripe for abuse by mothers, who seem to go unpunished for doing so.
Too often, the custodial mother uses this clause to her benefit, delaying custody agreements for months or even years, while forcing the children and their father to meet only rarely, always supervised, and in an unnatural situation.
I’ve said it many times. When we give special power to individuals, some of them will abuse it. ‘Twas ever thus. But abuse of their power by mothers seems to be a part of the child custody system with which Israeli courts are content. That fathers see their rights trampled with no evidence of risk or wrongdoing on their part seems incredible, but alas it’s all too true.
Mothers are further rewarded for wrongdoing thus:
Sometimes, the mother chooses not to honor the agreement, or not to bring all the children, and the session is not made up for. If the mother refuses to bring the children for several weeks in a row, social workers will insist on "restarting the procedures" to allow the children to meet their father in the supervised contact center, since the "children have not seen their father in a long time."
That of course prolongs the time in which fathers are required to see their kids at the contact centers. I assume that’s the very point of the exercise. But there’s more.
Another issue is that if the father is not earning enough to pay child support, the court will forbid him from seeing his children "since he has no means to support them" and seeing their father in such a state "is harmful to their health."
Men in this situation will often not see their children for months on end.
How did someone decide that a man who’s not earning enough to pay all the child support he owes suddenly becomes “harmful to [his children’s] health?” That of course remains a mystery, since there’s absolutely nothing to support such an absurd assertion. Kids want to see their fathers regardless of their financial state. Needless to say, that requirement too is ripe for abuse by a system that’s virulently anti-father.
When their finances straighten out, they face an additional issue: The supervised visits need to be "rethought," since there was a long break. This process of re-examining the visits naturally takes between a few weeks to a few months, during which time the father still is not allowed to see his children.
Meanwhile, if Daddy proves himself to be a very, very good boy, he may actually be allowed to take his child from the contact center, but only long enough to not be able to do anything constructive or enjoyable.
When asked how the contact center works, Sarah explained, "He has to be there for the first fifteen minutes. Then he can take them somewhere for an hour before he has to go back to the center for the last fifteen minutes."
One hour, including travel time, isn't enough to do anything, unless you're in a big city, but Sarah explained that the issue isn't just travel time - it's also that fathers only have the "right" to take their children out of the contact center after they've been going to the center consistently for a while.
Finally, Sarah points to the core of the matter:
"These children's rights are being violated," she said. "Human rights is very global, its very strong - they often have good goal, good power."
The antipathy with which laws and practices treat fathers and children and invariably under the guise of children’s interests never ceases to amaze and enrage.
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