March 16, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Israel has long been one of the worst countries in the developed world in which to be a father. Its laws and practices make the United States look like a veritable heaven on earth for divorced fathers and their children. I’ve reported numerous times on the plight of Israeli dads and their fight to achieve even minimal time with their kids and respect from judges. So far, their every effort at sensible reform has gone for naught, blocked in the Knesset by feminist lawmakers, at least some of whom have been sued, along with the newspaper Haaretz that repeated the defamation, for their troubles.
Now the United Nations has even taken note of the anti-dad family law system in Israel (Jerusalem Post, 3/6/16).
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called on the Israeli government to amend its laws in order to ease the burden on fathers seeking full or partial custody of their children.
At a special hearing in Geneva last month, the committee expressed concern that fathers embroiled in custody disputes here are not always treated fairly under the Capacity and Guardianship Law.
In its summation of hearing about the economic, social and cultural situation in member countries, the committee called directly on the state to make sure that custody of children up to the age of six is not always given to mothers and asked the government to find a way to “ensure that child support awards do not lead to an inadequate standard of living for the father.”
Well, that’s putting it diplomatically. To be a bit more straightforward, Israeli fathers are almost never given a fair shake by family courts and child support law is so draconian that, for a divorced father to even travel abroad for his job, he must post a bond in the amount of the total child support owed until the child reaches adulthood. As a practical matter, that makes travel impossible for all but a small fraction of dads.
Worse is the fact that Israeli law clings to the Tender Years Doctrine that absolutely prevents paternal custody during the first six years of the child’s life. Is Dad Superman? Is Mom a drug-addicted child abuser? Too bad for the child, because Mom’s his/her caregiver until age six.
What happens then? Once a child’s been with one parent that long, essentially no court will change custody or even give the father significant parenting time. The Tender Years Doctrine creates a fait accompli denying the father access until the child grows up.
More to the point are the statements by the Coalition for Children and Family that brought the complaint to the U.N. committee in the first place.
Alongside complaints of social and economic difficulties faced by the men and accusations that in general more attention is paid to women’s rights, the CCF also outlined legislation it calls “blatantly discriminatory against men.”
“The parliament and judges refuse to eliminate discriminatory preferences and presumptions which favor women. That is coupled with automatic and instant decisions in favor of women, compared with deliberate procrastination in disposing of motions filed by men, general attitude of ridiculization and marginalization of all men, labeling all men as potential aggressors and dangerous to spouses and children,” wrote the fathers in their report.
They continued: “It turns the lives of men unbearable, driving most of them into poverty, inability to carry jobs, imprisonments and a large number of suicides (200 suicides a year, eight times greater than everyone else, and 50 percent of the national average number of occurrences).”
The group specifically highlighted 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.
“There is not even one official source that recognizes a father’s right to access his children post-divorce,” wrote the men in the report.
That figure for suicides is about on par with what we see in the English-speaking world. Divorced fathers, denied real relationships with their kids, take their own lives at horrifying rates.
Then there’s the issue of child support.
In its summation, the UN committee expressed concern that “in the case of a divorce, custody of children up to the age of six is always given to mothers, and that fathers are often required to pay child support awards that exceed their income, and if not that their freedom of movement is seriously curtailed.”
Here in the U.S. we seldom see child support awards that actually exceed fathers’ incomes, except of course when Dad loses his job and has no income, or is forced to take a lower paying job. What most states have are laws that seek to limit child support awards so that Dad doesn’t actually descend below the poverty line. Of course here’s a piece I wrote on a Nebraska case in which the judge clearly bent over backward to ensure that the father (and his second family) would live in poverty.
Meanwhile, Israeli activists are pleased with the statement by the U.N. Committee, but pessimistic about prospects for reform.
Despite the UN’s recognition that their battle has legitimacy, Daniel Zer, a father who has not seen his son for more than two years, expressed pessimism that anything would change on the ground here.
Zer said the NGO has been rebuffed by politicians and the authorities in their attempts to raise the issue and improve the situation.
“We are really stuck in hell,” he said.
I have some (admittedly unsolicited) advice: stop asking and start demanding. By that I mean, stop talking to the United Nations and start talking to voters. Target Knesset members who don’t vote for sensible parenting time and child support reform and do your best to defeat them at the ballot box. The destruction of families is serious business and not something any lawmaker should be allowed to get away with.
The good news about political activism is that reform forces don’t even need to win in order to win. Strongly backing a rival candidate can throw enough of a scare into the recalcitrant legislator that he/she may come to see the value of reform the next time the opportunity arises. And of course if your candidate does prevail, it won’t be hard to make him/her understand family law issues and the need to support reform.
Fatherlessness is too big a battle to leave some of your weapons at home. Children need their fathers and society needs children with fathers. So, next election, target a few Knesset members for defeat and see if that doesn’t improve your reception the next time you bring a shared parenting bill before them.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
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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