Fighting Against Gender Inequality in Israeli Family Courts (2011)
The Coalition for the Family and Children in Israel was established in order to fight inequality in treatment of men in divorce or separation, and prevent rampant judicially approved alienation and disengagement of fathers from their children during and after divorce. Gender Inequality and Discrimination is rampant in Israeli law. It creates orphaned children to live fathers, and it devastates fathers financially and emotionally. Hundreds commit suicide every year. Others escape the State. We strive to change the law.
ccfisrael.org is registered with the UN in Geneva as a civil society. It is based in Paris, the web-site is managed in new Jersey, and it maintains a support line by volunteers in Israel.
If you want to know what rights do men and/or fathers have in Israeli law, then the quick answer is that men and fathers have no rights whatsoever. If you want to know if fathers have a right to see their children, then the answer is no. Israel does not recognize any inherent, legal or natural right of a father to see or access his own children. There is no such right, and there will be no "right" to visitations. Visitations wholly depend on whether the mother "consents" to visitations. If the mother refuses to consent, than there will be no child access ,or after many months a father will be "allowed" by a social worker, appointed by a judge to see his children in a supervised visitation center, known as a "Contact Center". These are prison-like facilities where a father gets 4 hours a months, and must sign a coerced document that every minute inside the contact center, he must accept instructions, that he cannot take photographs, cannot bring presents, or bring other family members. Even when consent by the mother is given, or even when a marital agreement (divorce agreement) is signed, it is worthless. A woman can revoke the consent any time, even if it is guaranteed in a notarized and "so ordered" divorce agreement. Moreover, a man in Israel has only obligations, mostly to pay child support regardless of his income, without any participation from the wife (even if she is more wealthy), and child support is set at rated about 4 times higher than the US, Australia and Canada. Arrest orders for nonpayment of child support are issued ex parte, without a right to counsel. Men can be arrested any time, solely upon the allegation of the woman that she is "fearful". Also, a woman can forbid the man's right to exit (ne exeat) Israel anytime she desires. In short, in Israeli divorced men (or in process of divorce) are treated as ATMs, and if the ATM is dry, and cannot dispense cash at will, the typical Israeli family court judge would tell the man to simply sell a kidney.
Attention Judges overseas: In case a Judge overseas is reading these pages, please be advised that any Judgment originating from the Israeli Family Court system is never worthy of foreign-judgment recognition or domestication. None of the Judgments from Israeli Family Courts are products of Due Process or Equal Protection of the law. They are mere fantasies of feminist brainwashing, and expressions of a broken, corrupt system. Imagine that you are a judge overseas and a document entitled "Judgment", duly apostiled, is presented to you for domestication or foreign judgment enforcement. Naturally, you would assume that it is a product of adversarial arguments and testimony that was properly heard. Now, what if we told you that in Israeli family Courts, Judgments can be rendered ex parte, at whim, or without testimony at all? What if the Judge would recite fictitious proof, wholly imaginary, and she would docket it, and close the file? This is everyday practice here in Israel. Another trick is to "book "as three hour trial, and at the commencement of the trial, the Judge says, "you now get 30 minutes per side for all witnesses and summations". The attorney for the husband then tries to mark documents in evidence, but the Judge simply says "denied". Since the Judge decides what goes into the transcript, and you can't tape it, the reader believes that the attorney failed to introduce evidence. Then comes the attorney for the wife. All her exhibits are piled up and marked for evidence. The Judge then enters all of them into evidence en masse, without even looking at them, and forget voir dire. Is this the kind of trial you would expect in a democratic society? well, this is everyday reality, and the sad part about it is that trials reach the calendar, at best, 3 to 4 years from service of process. Now you would think about an appeal? Well, your client would have to post a bond in the amount of $3,500, regardless of the value of the case, plus court fees. So, if you are a Judge overseas, please, do not accept any Israeli Judgment at face value. It is not worthy of reciprocity, comity or full faith and credit. It is simply a piece of garbage. Try the case overseas de novo.
From the outset it should be noted that Israeli Family Law, in general, is discriminatory, hostile, and is carried out without any semblance of adversarial practice. Judges accept any rumor or fabrication advocated by the woman's attorneys as probative evidence, or worse, the Judges concoct "evidence" themselves. Cross examinations of social workers are not allowed. In child support trials, Judges limit the duration of trial to 60 minutes (30 minutes per side), thus eliminating any opportunity to actually and effectively cross examine, or bring witnesses. Harsh financial penalties are imposed every step of the way, especially during preliminary motions and pretrial applications against the men, to deter them from proceeding to trial and surrender to the woman's demands. The Israeli Family Court Judges feel immune to any complaint, because it is impossible to recuse them, too expensive to appeal them, and grievances are dismissed en masse, as a matter of policy.
Visitations Refusals and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) are so prevalent and so common in Israel, Richard Gardner would have had a feast here. Because Israel still adheres to the old concept that a father’s visitation and access to children rights depend on the mother’s consent, mothers are at liberty to withhold consent, and as a result, thousands of children are disengaged from their fathers. It is routine for any father to start seeing his children in supervised visitation centers (a/k/a “contact centers” or "Merkaz Kesher"), and perhaps after 6 to 12 months get consent of a committee of social workers to unsupervised visitations or sleepovers. The rate of supervised visitations in Israel is the highest in the Western world: 20%-25%. Contrast this with the U.S. rate of supervised visitations at 1% to 2%. Illinois, for example, a major feminist stronghold, averages 900 families undergoing supervised visitation out of an average of 35,000 divorces. Per Simona Shteinmetz, Chief Social Worker for SW appointed in aid of Courts, it is sufficient for a woman to withhold consent to visitations, to trigger the "recommendation" that all contact with the children be supervised in a contact center. Simona Shteinmetz policy is to disengage as many fathers from as many children as possible, as part of women empowerment, and "best interests of the mother". She has delegated the training of social workers in the hands of ferocious feminist organizations (such as the Rackman Center), who borrow radical male bashing ideology from Australia, where this kind of anti-male atmosphere is thriving.
Israel's Family Law Discriminatory Landscape
Family Law in Israel is handled at two different Courts: Family Courts and Rabbinical Courts. Jurisdiction depends on a race to file first. Family Courts are not based on gender equality. Men are being discriminated against by the Family Courts in Israel on an regular basis. The discrimination against men results in tremendous losses to the national labor force, exhaustion of individuals, enrichment of lawyers, overburdening of family Courts with needless proceedings, a drain on resources of social services and welfare, and most importantly, a whole generations of children are growing up in a world of conflicts, intra-family wars and quarrels, and are indoctrinated into a life of deprivation of love, selfishness, argumentative and confrontational behavior, as well as deprivation of adequate parental care.
The Legislature, the Knesset, is doing absolutely nothing to reform the statutory conditions. The Executive Branch appoints countless of investigatory committees, but fails to adopt any findings and the Judges at Family Court exercise vindictive behavior, deny Due Process, prolong proceedings, and deny the right to bring evidence or cross examine witnesses. At the Appellate level, it is practically impossible to appeal Family Courts’ judgments and orders, because of excessive and unaffordable bonds to secure the appeal (almost $3,000), and the usual deference to the so called professional expertise of the trial Court, even when the trial Court does not conduct trials at all.
Criticism of Israel’s violations of men and fathers’ human rights is widespread in Israel. There are countless organizations advocating the rights of fathers to visitations with children. Similarly, the internet is full of horrific personal stories of injustice: fathers who are denied visitation rights solely at the whim of the custodian mother, exorbitant child support orders well in excess of the father’s ability to pay, and sometimes even higher than the actual salary. Other fathers are filing for bankruptcy at increasing numbers. Most of them live are under ne exat injunctions preventing them to leave the State of Israel, allegedly to secure the payment of child support with their own body as collateral.
Many fathers simply escape the country, because of the constant barrage of false domestic violation orders, ex parte orders of protection, and post judgment executions on their bank accounts, cars, properties and savings, all bearing atrocious interest and attorney fees, so no reasonable person can ever get rid of his debt.
The entire sphere of family life and family law in Israel is mired by chaos, conflicting decisions, inability to know what law to apply, lack of access to the law, insurmountable barriers to self representation.
In Israel, an increasing number of men, approximately, 9,000 every year are victims of a merciless system which violates human rights, and is inherently corrupt. Divorces, custody or visitation litigation lasts several years in Courts, where intervals between hearings take 6 to 9 months, tremendous expenses on lawyers, countless invitations to parent suitability tests at Social Welfare services, and constant threats that a child might be involuntarily and forcibly removed to a foster home.
Israel’s statutory discrimination against Men violates international commitments and fundamental values
Discrimination in family law leads to a colossal waste of time, pain and agony to men in divorce, separation or child support proceedings. Obviously, this could have been easily avoided if each parent had equal rights under the law, and each parent had automatic parental rights that require no adversary litigation.
However, Israeli law contains an antiquated statutory presumption, the Tender Years Presumption, which provides that children under the age of six belong with the mother, and the same concept prevails regarding children above six years of age, as well. The father on the other hand, is not entitled to visitations as a matter of right, or as a matter of law. The father is expected to “obtain” consent from his estranged wife to see his children, or convince a State social worker that it is in the best interests of the child, that the child should see the father.
Fathers must pay child support according to their religious affiliation, and if they are Jewish, the mother’s income does not count for purposes of determining the appropriate child support award. In many cases, Courts impute incomes that do not exist to the father, or award arbitrary amounts, without any correlation of the child support award to the father’s salary, his own subsistence needs, or whatever is left after debt payment. Interim child support awards are made based on papers alone, with no hearing at all, and credible evidence is not necessary. The Courts routinely accept self serving and unsupported affidavits of the woman as to the husband’s income, as proof with probative value.
Affirmative Discrimination in Family Court
Because it is said that Rabbinical Courts are predisposed to discriminate in favor of men, Family Courts exercise radical and vindictive affirmative discrimination in favor of women. As a result, the clash between two opposite and antagonistic forums causes Family Court Judges to adopt radical positions in favor women and against men.
Tender Years Presumption favors women
Gender based discrimination is engrained in the body of Israeli Family Law. The "Capacity and Guardianship Law" of 1962, Art. 25 contains the Tender Years Presumption. It is statutorily presumed that the best interests of the child are that custody be awarded to the mother. As a result, it is impossible for men to come to Courts on equal terms with their female spouses, and thus result of legal custody disputes is predetermined. The mother always wins together with substantial child support awards that in many cases are inflated and in many cases results in imprisonment of the husband for non-payment.
The Israeli Parliament appointed a Commission, the Dan Schnitt Commission , to investigate parental division of responsibilities in family disputes, but as always in Israel, nothing has been done with the recommendations of the Commission to abolish the presumption which supports automatic female custodial rights.
Child support Orders Ignore Women’s Income
Discrimination exists in awards of child support. Whereas males' potential earning is always taken into account, and usually to the extreme levels of imputed income (as opposed to actual income), females' earning potential is ignored, thus causing unequal distribution of family resources based on gender discrimination. For example, Judge Tova Sivan at the Tel Aviv Family Court initially orders men to pay 40% of their income as child support for one child, without even reviewing hardships, debts and disposable income. Other men are not so lucky and they can be ordered to pay even 60% or 80% of their income to the mother.
Again, the Parliament appointed a Commission, the Shifman Commission, following several previous commissions, each recommending appointment of a subsequent commission. The Ministry of Justice refuses to publish the Shifman recommendations, and nothing is being done.
What is even worse is that instead of adopting one standard formula that may enable parties to know in advance what would be the applicable award, each case is treated differently because of the false concept that each child has different “needs”. Thus, there is no incentive to mediation or amicable solutions, because the woman may always feel that she can do better in Court, depending on how victimized she can present herself to be, or how much sympathy she can draw.
Not only does this creates a tremendous waste, as each case has to be litigated, Israeli Family Court Judges require the woman to list each and every expense for the child, and for the father to deny each and every purported expense. Thus, Israeli Family Court Judges waste their own time, going through a garden-variety lists of “needs” for each child. Child awards is Israeli may look like this: “the mother claimed that the child needs ballet classes at $40 a month. The father stated that $20 a month for ballet classes was spent during the marital relationship. The court finds that the father should pay $40, so that the child is afforded maximum potential to enrich his/her education”, and the list may continue, kust like this, regarding every petty and silly expense. This, of course, could and should be avoided by standardizing treatment with standardized allowances, but you can’t teach old dogs new tricks…
Custody Trials In Israel Are Biased in Favor of women
Officially, the law states that both parents are co-guardians, but that is a meaningless concept that is not followed, and carries no sanctions. What matters is who gets custody. The other parent has to beg for visitations. The Court usually grants immediate interim custody to the mothers, and send the fathers to the mercy of a state employed social worker, to decide his fate as a father. Once again, discrimination is prevalent in custody trials as well, since Israel usually does not "recognize" shared custody or joint custody, as opposed to ambivalent “joint-guardianship” concept, which is a only used to justify imposition of child support. This results in a guaranteed judicial predisposition in favor of females at custody trials, while still maintaining the guise of impartiality due to the over-riding concept of "co-guardianship". In fact, there are hardly any custody and visitations trials in Israel. The Judge receives a biased report from the State employed social workers, who are trained to see all women as victims and all men as aggressors. The Judge then "so orders" the social workers' report, and close the file, with costs ($1,500-$3,000) against the husband, because women are always the prevailing party.
Discriminatory Domestic Violence Enforcement
Subsidiary legislation in law enforcement mandates discrimination in the treatment of domestic violence ("DV") complaints at the police precinct levels. Guideline 2.5 of Israel's Attorney General's Guidelines dictates that females' DV complaints result in immediate arrest of the males sometimes for periods of 96 hours with no corroborative evidence required, other than the phone call to the police. Guideline 2.5 (as drafted by Supreme Court Judge Edna Arbel) exempts and immunizes females from false complaint or false arrest charges. According to the Guidelines, the Police would not docket a DV complaint by a male against female, or ironically the police docket the complaint as a complaint initiated by the female.
This discriminatory Guideline results in 90%-95% of divorce cases beginning with false DV police complaints, automatically followed by an order of protection and removal of the male from his home and from his children for the duration of the divorce trial, which can last an average of 3-5 years.
Israeli Social Services and Child Protection Services torment fathers
Recently, a parliamentary committee, the Slonim-Nevo Commission has published its report finding countless of inherent problems with the child protection services. However, as always in Israel, the report was published and nothing was done. Indeed Social workers appointed by the Family Courts in Israel are inadequately trained, and the little training they do receive is a mere rehash of stereotypes that the man is always the macho veteran of the Israeli almighty army, and that the woman is always the victim of domestic violence and must be protected "interventionist methods" of social work disciplines. Thus, what used to be a normative family on the eve of the divorce is now transformed into a battle of the sexes, with social workers compelling men to be "treated" with primitive psycho-therapeutic sessions as a condition to seeing their children, by the ill trained social worker herself. Those who express a little bit of independence or resistance are sent to costly "Parental Fitness Tests", or "Dangerous Propensity Test" for fathers, at private institutions, which costs thousands of dollars. Thus, an entire industry of leeches (including the social workers, psychologists and lawyers) is being fed from what's left of the father's savings.
The divestment of Judiciary Powers in favor of Social Workers
Almost every custody case is determined based on affidavits alone. Motions for visitations are adjourned pending social services reports. There has been a sharp rise in delegation of judiciary powers from the Family Court to Social Workers by special appointment as a Court-Aide Clerks, whose role are to submit a Social worker Report, recommend custody and visitations. In essence, the recommendations are rubber stamped by the Judges, and the social worker Court-Aide actually becomes the final arbitrators of every visitations case.
This abridges the right to a fair trial and equal access to legal remedies, because now in almost 100% of the cases such aides are appointed. In essence, this is a delegation of all judicial responsibilities to a welfare agent, who is vested with quasi-judicial powers, since the welfare agent's report is automatically "so ordered" and granted Judgment status without trial, cross examination or expert witnesses. The Family Courts have voluntarily stripped themselves of their Judicial roles in every contested divorce and separation case.
As a result, all Family Court judgments concerning custody and visitations are not the products of judicial work in an adversary proceeding, as usually known, practiced or accepted in a democratic society. Therefore, No judgment from an Israeli Family Court should be accorded foreign recognition, "reciprocity" or the equivalent of "full faith and credit" outside Israel, since it is not really a judgment in any sense of the word.
Social services and child protective services in Israel are the real judges in matrimonial cases. They enjoy full immunity and cannot be sued for negligence. Their reports are a verbose collection of rumors, fabrications and outright invasions of privacy, exposing the women’s wildest allegations in most graphic terms.
A parliamentary investigative Commission, the Slonim-Nevo Commission (PDF) has recently published its work, finding that social workers appointed by Family Courts to "investigate" fathers' claims for custody or visitations, routinely act in conflict of interest, violate the trust and confidences that the spouses revealed to them, use undue threats of denial of visitation rights, forced removal of children (in case of single parents with limited incomes), and the threat of actual intrusion into the private homes of spouses. Financial remuneration to the social workers encourages them to aggravate the situation and perpetuate conflicts at least until children are over 18. As usual in Israel, the recommendations were not implemented.
Almost each protection guaranteed in the developed world, has no equivalent in Israeli Family Law or practice. The Statutes officially discriminate between males and females (the tender-years presumption or the exorbitant child support awards which ignore the women’s income). The Courts (civil and rabbinical) exercise reactionary discrimination to the practice of the other, which is only getting extreme. The State denies people the right to family life in the form of a civil marriage license, and compels citizens to appear before religious tribunals against their wills. The Operative Guidelines for the Police discriminate between males and females. Females are immune from false complaint arrests and men can not file DV complaints against women.
The Courts refuse to conduct hearings, and instead they outsource (or delegate) the judicial work to appointed social workers. The social workers are induced financially to perpetuate conflicts and exercise forced removal of children, denial of visitation rights for unreasonable periods of time, and operate without any unifying formats, guidelines or supervision.
The Legislature is incompetent. Committees are appointed left and right but none of the recommendations are ever implemented. The country's treatment of minorities, refugees, and other disadvantaged groups is apathetic. The cost of legal access is tremendous. Legal proceedings are procrastinated for years and are devoid of any adversary of actual judicial work. Tens of thousands of men are at risk of incarceration for nonpayment of exorbitant child support. Similarly, men are routinely arrested for fictitious domestic violence charges, because this is a common and customary tactical litigation advantage.
Finally, the quality of child protective services and of the social workers themselves in below sub-standard, resulting in constant friction, colossal waste of time and human resources, having to surrender to costly "parental suitability tests", ongoing invasion of privacy, rampant libel and defamation incorporated into trumped up reports which are them judicially so ordered, causing public ridicule and loss of work.
Documentary on Father's Rights Causes Change, Aug 26, 2011 Channel 7 An overly optimistic report about a movie, one of a kind in Israel, that dares to bring the real truth behind the divorce industry in Israel, directed by Isri Halpern. Viewers are said to be shocked at how Family Court Judges in Israel do not blink an eye when they order disengagement of fathers from their biological children. Read also a review from an American perspective, Documentary Film Fans Sparks of Change in Israeli Family Law, Sep 2, 2011.
Israeli Fathers Fighting Discrimination in Family Courts, OnlinePRnews March 2011 (PDF). Coverage of the courageous Petition to the Supreme Court, Bagatz 2111/11.
Israel Fathers Take Gender Bias Discrimination in Family Courts, Child Welfare to Supreme Court, Free Republic, March 2011 (PDF) Re: Bagatz 2111/11 – The horrors of social workers tormenting fathers by denying visitations): "According to the Petition to Israel's highest court, a minor v. Moshe Kachlon, Israel Minister of Welfare and Social Services (Bagatz 2111/11), the Family Courts in Israel have completely divested themselves from any judicial role in areas of custody and children visitation rights, and instead of conducting trials, they callously appoint a social services employee, as Court-aides to determine whether a father may be granted rights of visitations to the children".
Divorced Fathers Say "I Hope Social workers strike Forever", Arutz 7, March 2011 (PDF) Social workers went on a strike for more pay. The media brainwashed the public to support the CSWs. Divorced fathers went to the streets to counter demonstrate against those responsible for their misery: "A large proportion of divorcing fathers blame social workers for the fact that they have to see their children in "visitation centers" to begin with. Israel's family courts tend to decide custody disputes based on reports handed in by social workers. Fathers' activists say that the workers tend to side with mother against fathers and that as a result, many kind, caring and responsible fathers are torn away from their children every year"… "These bosses [of the Ministry of Welfare] build their entire power structure by flooding the Israeli welfare system with under-qualified social workers who drag out the suffering of vulnerable children, widows and elderly for their own job security".
Heroic Israeli Dad: Family Courts massacre love and relationships, Fathers & Families 2011 (PDF). "The father is told that the only way that he can now see his children is in supervised visitation centers (merkaz kesher). Many fathers will not bow to this humiliation order by a callous family court and opt to simply walk away. Leaving thousands of children without fathers in Israel".
Committee: End gender discrimination in custody cases Jerusalem Post 2008 (PDF). In April 2008 the parliamentary "Schnitt Commission" published its report. "A Justice Ministry committee charged with assessing a controversial law that determines which parent will receive custody of a child during divorce proceedings reached its conclusion Sunday, calling for Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to revoke the 40-year-old law and replace it with a more gender-equal alternative". Feminist figures such as Ruth Halperin-Kaddari said the Schnitt Commission recommendations must be buried, because "weaken the position of women in divorce proceedings in general". In other words, it's about money. So far, its a win-win for the feminists.
Mother's Advantage, Haifa Conference on Tender Years, Jerusalem Post 2007 (PDF), See also, Israel Divorced Father's To Gain More Custody, Gender Bias Addressed, ISRnewsAgency 2007 (PDF). A conference held in Haifa organized by Israel Rabbinic Courts administration, social workers and feminists to examine the Tender Years Presumption: "All the old psychological studies say the mother is the most important figure in the life of a young child and the father is less important… This theory needs to be reevaluated; today there are many fathers who want to raise their children and custody needs to be decided based on what is best for the child". Wishful thinking in 2007, nothing happened.
Distraught Fathers Vent Anger at Divorce Conference, Arutz 7 2009 (PDF). Debate held on the delayed recommendations of the Dan Shnit Commission. Representatives of the Ministry of Welfare such as Moti Vinter and the notorious male-hater and uber child-alienator Niva Milner appeared and said social workers' change of attitude is "a change of discourse", i.e., the way they are talking about parental rights, not the way they implement them.
New Knesset Sub-C'tee Examines Discrimination Against Fathers", Arutz 7 2007 (PDF). Passionate appearance of divorced fathers tormented by family courts and social workers just for wanting contact with their children. Then comes her highness, Orli Iness, and reminds everybody that each year 10 to 12 women are murdered, and therefore the Country must spend tens of millions of shekels to "stop the violence", and of course, tighten the noose on those stubborn fathers even more.
The Tender Years Presumption: Kids need dads, too, even divorced ones, Ynet 2005, (PDF). Gil Ronen explains how "with one fell swoop, the court will turn the man from a beloved father to a miserable alimony/child support slave, who has to beg for every single “visitation hour” with his own children".
"Anybody But Dad: Judge Tova Sivan Dislikes Fathers Being in Contact with Children" (PDF). A personal letter of shocked Americans from Indiana at the abuse encountered by her brother, who immigrated to Israel, by Judge Tova Sivan at Family Court in Ramat Gan, who will do anything to prevent fathers from seeing their children. Senators from Indiana and California wrote to Israel's Ministry of Justice, back in 2005. The Judge couldn't care less. For Tova Sivan, it is now and always: "Anybody but dad!".
Effect of Gender Preference in Israel in Hague Abduction Cases