Shuli Mualem
Shuli MualemEliran Aharon

MK Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli (Jewish Home) has proposed a new law regarding the Tender Age Clause. The new version, unlike the previous one, will not affect parents' authority or rights, instead focusing solely on divorced parents.

The "Parents and Children Law" nearly passed its Knesset readings. It was voted down 42-41 November 2015.

It seems, then, that parents' authority and guardianship rights are safe, at least for now.

However, this new law is not completely benign and may cause an already suffering population - divorced fathers - even more heartbreak and anguish than they already have.

The new proposal, which as of Monday morning had not yet appeared on the Knesset's site, is called "Proposal regarding the legal validity and guardianship law (correction: the court's decision when the parents cannot agree), 5777-2016."

In addition to Mualem, MKs Meirav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) and Rachel Ben Azaria (Kulanu) have also signed the law.

Supposedly, the new law reduces the number of years included in the Tender Years Clause, but in fact, it may increase them.

The current Tender Years Clause gives preferential treatment to divorcing mothers over divorcing fathers, nearly guaranteeing that the children will stay with their mother until age six. However, since courts do not like to disturb children's routines and since the courts like to keep siblings together, children often stayed with their mothers well past the mandatory age 6. Often, this meant the child would only see his father once every two weeks - regardless of which parent was more fit to take care of them - and even then, only if the mother was amicable and did not cause problems.

The new law would shorten the Tender Years and give mothers preferential treatment only until the child turns 4. However, it also adds an additional "Primary Caregiver Clause," which gives an inherent advantage to whichever parent "took care of" the child most often.

This clause may well give feminist activists just what they need in order to ensure children stay with their mothers for their entire childhood.

The proposed law states, "Regarding a minor who is over the age of four years but has not yet passed his tenth birthday, the amount of time spent with each of his parents will be decided by the court. The court shall adhere closely to the amount of time spent with each parent, how they took care of him, and how much they took care of him, in the 24 months prior to the parents' submission of a request for court intervention, unless there are other factors to be taken into consideration."

Regarding a minor who has passed his tenth birthday, the law continues, "The amount of time spent with each parent will be decided by the court in accordance with[...] the care the child has received from each of his parents prior to the court's ruling."

In other words, the Tender Years Clause may often be extended until the child is 10 or 18.

The law also states that when the court decides custody arrangements, it should attempt to "prevent the exposure of a child to a parent who abuses any family members."

Since the system is built in a way that allows women to easily label men as abusive, even without proof and even when the woman is the abusive parent and the man is the victim, this section of the law may very well enable divorcing mothers to hurt their children's fathers in a way that itself may constitute abuse, both towards the father and towards the child.

The law also states that equal custody will be given if the following conditions are fulfilled:

1. The parents work together and communicate

2. Both parents are extremely involved in the child's life

3. The parents live near each other

4. The child is interested in such an arrangement and the court deems it to be beneficial to him.

In other words, this section allows one parent to decide not to work with the other, and prevent the other parent from being given equal custody, essentially giving veto power over possible dual custody arrangements.

Fathers' rights activist Yair Kanai called this proposal "manipulative" and said it raises the age mentioned in the Tender Years Clause to age 10 (in opposition to Jewish Law), while pretending to lower it.

Jewish Law mandates children stay with their mother until they are 6 years old, after which the boys stay with their father and the girls with their mother. Child support is provided according to the father's income and ability, until the child is six years old.