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Daily Israel Report

Report: Rabbinical Courts to Be Weakened

Committee appointed by Justice Minister recommends strengthening Family Courts at expense of Rabbinical ones.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/21/2011, 6:58 PM

Rabbinical Court
Rabbinical Court
Flash 90

A Justice Ministry committee appointed by Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman recommends that rabbinical courts no longer decide regarding child custody, child support and division of property in divorces, unless both sides agree to the process.

 
The recommendation was reported Thursday by government-run Voice of Israel Radio. It has not been confirmed by the Justice Ministry.
 
The committee recommends that if there is no agreement on which court will handle the case, the Rabbinical Courts will make decisions strictly regarding the divorce decree (get), and leave other matters to the Family Court. 
 
According to the Voice of Israel, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar has reacted very unfavorably to the report and said that he was not even aware of the Committee’s existence. MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) said the recommendations would make the Rabbinical Courts meaningless.
 
The Family Courts were established in the 1990s by then Supreme Court President Aharon Barak as a competing system to the Rabbinical Courts. Prior to their establishment, civil courts handled divorces at the District Court level, alongside the Rabbinical Courts.
 
For decades, Rabbinical Courts were considered to be more pro-husband, and civil courts more pro-wife. As a result, once a couple decided to get divorced, a race often ensued: if the husband filed the case with the Rabbinical Courts first, it would be decided there. If the wife preceded him and filed the case with the civil court – it would be tried there. 
 
However, in recent years, as the influence of the women's movement has mushroomed, many men’s rights activists say that the attitude of the Rabbinical Courts toward men is no better than that of the Family Courts. Most spokespersons for women are extremely critical of the Rabbinical Courts and say they are guided by an obsolete patriarchal and misogynistic world view.