Grandparents Visitation Rights New Law

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July 2012.  Israel moves a step closer to reduce women’s veto powers over child access rights by approving a new law that gives standing for grandparents to seek child access with the grandchildren over the objections of the mother.  On July 17, 2012 Amendment 17 to the Legal Capacity and Guardianship Law was published.  The new law states that “The court may, if it finds it in the interests of the minor, decide on an application of 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”.  see report on Arutz 7: Law Eases Grandparents' Access to Children of Divorce

While fathers still do not have any rights of their own for child access, and they are wholly dependent on the consent of the mother, which often is not given, the grandparents of the father may now petition the courts independently of the father.  The new law does not provide a right or a cause of action.  It merely gives standing to the grandparents to participate in mediation at the court’s facilities, and thereafter be heard by a judge.

Parental equality supporters in Israel claim that the mediation support services unit of the courts (“Yechida LeSiyua”) is populated by social workers who are trained in gender studies and feminist empowerment, and that the success rates at these mediations with the social workers are very low, because women are coached by their lawyers to simply withhold any consent, or be unreasonable.

The coalition for Children and family, which unites fathers’ rights in Israel, stated that Israel’s new grandparents’ visitations rights is a mellowed down version of the recommendations of the Schnit Committee on parental equality. Whereas the Schnit Committee recommended 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.

Moreover, Schnit Committee spoke of grandparents’ right to petition family courts, whereas the new law is merely a procedural rule to allow standing to seek access, however, no rights are attached to the procedure.

At the Knesset preparatory working sessions, representatives of the welfare office, Simona Shteinmetz and Ayelet Sasson indicated their opposition to grandparents’ visitation on the ground that it violate the women’s autonomy to determine who her children will be in contact with.

The Ministry of welfare social workers expressed fear that giving rights to grandparents would curtail their efforts to restrict men to supervised visitations at Israel’s notorious “Contact Centers” one hour a week. Shteinmetz and Sasson already voiced their intention to condition grandparents’’ visitations on therapeutic sessions and a trial period at a supervised intensive-security contact center.

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 male basher.  In fact, the Rackman Center and Ruth Halperin Kaddari strongly objected to the new law, because it undercuts the women’s power to use the children’s visitations as an extortion tool.

“We at the Coalition for Children and Family fear that once the grandparents hear that they have to pay for sessions with therapist s and be limited to a contact center, most of them would just give up. Already we hear that family court judges simply postpone grandparents’ access petitions and refuse to hear them, because it undercuts the woman’s power to extort the man by denying child access. We even heard a ridiculous demand that a protection order be issued against the man to not approach his parents’ home during the grandchildren visitations. Thus, while the law itself is welcome, even in its diluted form, we rest assured that the army of social workers would render this law completely useless, frustrating and costly”.

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