Divorced couple (illustration)
Divorced couple (illustration) Reuters

The Knesset has reduced the abilty of custodial divorced parents to unfairly curtail child access rights, by approving a new law that gives legal standing for grandparents to seek child access with the grandchildren over the objections of the custodial parent. 

Amendment 17 to the Legal Capacity and Guardianship Law, which was passed last week in its final reading, states that “The court may, if it finds it in the interests of the minor, authorize an application by grandparents regarding the contact between them and the minor. An application shall be submitted to the Court in the form of an application for dispute resolution, and shall be directed to the Support Services Unit of the court”.

Non-custodial parents – who are almost always the fathers – often face major disadvantages in Israel regarding the right to spend time with their children. These include easily-granted distancing orders that are not infrequently based on spurious allegations of violence. Usually, this means that their children are denied the right to receive love and parenting from their fathers, and also from their paternal grandparents.

The new law makes it possible for the parents of the divorced father to petition the courts for access time, independently of the father.

Proponents of family values and parental equality in Israel claim that the Support Services Unit is populated by social workers who are trained by anti-male lecturers from university "gender studies" programs, and that the success rates of the mediations they handle are low, because the women who participate are coached by their lawyers to withhold any consent.      

The Coalition for Children and Family (CCF), which unites several parental rights and children's rights groups in Israel, stated Friday that the new law is "a watered down version" of the recommendations of a Legal Ministry committee that called for allowing all extended family members to seek access to children, including uncles and aunts, and even children in the father’s family who lost contact with a nephew or niece.

"The new law specifically addresses only grandparents, and unfortunately excludes the rest of the family," CCF said. However, it added, "while the law itself is welcome, even in its diluted form, we are certain that social workers will render this law completely useless, frustrating and costly."

Social workers in Israel, who are supposed to be objective assessors of parental abilities in divorce cases, participate in annual conferences on "gender" issues held by the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status within the Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University. The center is headed by Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, who has been criticized as politically radical.

Those supporting the Rackman center out of respect for the late strongly pro-Zionist Rabbi Rackman, an esteemed American rabbi who tried to find halakhic ways to ease divorce issues for women, are usually not aware of the direction the center has taken.