minister Yaakov Neeman - Michal Fattal
Minister Yaakov Neeman. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman announced Thursday that he would adopt the recommendations of a public committee looking into the legal aspects of child custody in divorce cases.

In its 2008 report, the committee, known as the Schnit Committee after panel chairman Dan Shnit, recommended that joint parental custody be ordered in divorce cases involving young children, which the law defines as those up to age 6. Traditionally there has been a presumption in Israeli law that young children would be in the custody of their mother.

The report said joint parental custody would create, “A new normative arrangement of parents’ relationships with their children.”

Dan Schnit responded to the news on Thursday, saying his committee merely “established guidelines,” adding that many studies on children of divorced parents show that the child must be given the opportunity to establish “significant relationships with both parents.”
The decision comes months after heated deliberations lead to the resignation of a Tel Aviv University law faculty member.

The major point of contention among committee members was how the courts should come to a decision when presented with similarly persuasive arguments over which parent should have physical custody of the children. The panel debated possible factors that would apply as a "tiebreaker" in such cases, on the assumption that one parent must have primary custody.

Sources in the court system previously said the absence of a decision on how to handle the issue of a tiebreaker, so that in practice one parent has primary custody, casts doubt on the impact of an interim report by the committee in 2008.

In its 2008 report, the committee recommended that joint parental custody be ordered in divorce cases involving young children, which the law defines as those up to age 6. Traditionally there has been a presumption in Israeli law that young children would be in the custody of their mother.