Israeli Rabbinical Court Removes Kids From Mother's Custody After Husband Claims Adultery

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Illustration: An ultra-Orthodox woman pushing a stroller.
Illustration: An ultra-Orthodox woman pushing a stroller. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

A rabbinical court ordered on Monday that children be removed from their mothers' custody until further notice after her husband claimed she is an adulterer, basing his claim solely on what he said was surveillance of his wife sitting with another man in bars.  

The Netanya Rabbinical Court issued two decisions on the case without any hearings and without calling on the wife to testify; a hearing was finally held only on Wednesday and the court is expected to deliver its next verdict soon.

Pursuant to the court's decision on Monday, custody of the couple's children is to go to their maternal grandmother, and each parent will be able to separately visit with their children.

In its first ruling, which preceded Monday's verdict, the court had banned the woman from leaving their family home after 9 P.M. with her children except when accompanied by her husband "due to claims presented by the father." The court did not hear testimony from the wife. It also instructed the police to implement its decision.

In his filing to the court, the husband claimed that his wife was cheating on him, based on surveillance indicating that she had been seen dining in Tel Aviv with a stranger, with her toddler son by their side. 

“At 6:30 P.M. the respondent was seen with a man while the child was in a stroller,” the husband’s request stated, without providing any surveillance footage.

“At 9:30 P.M. she was seen with him again, and the two went to a number of noisy bars with the child in the stroller. At 10:30 P.M. the respondent was sitting with the man in one of the bars and they ordered a pizza, which means she intended to be there for at least another hour.”

The husband’s lawyer, Daphna Ben-David, declined to comment.

When the mother came to pick up her children from preschool earlier this week, the teacher refused to let the children leave with her; the husband had told the school that a court ordered the children to be removed from her custody because she was mentally unstable.

“This is an infuriating and dangerous decision, more suitable to a religious judicial tribunal in Kabul or Tehran, not in Netanya, a city in the democratic State of Israel in 2021,” the wife’s lawyer, Arthur Shani, told Haaretz.

Shani said the verdict showed that the right to rule on the custody of children and visitation rights should be removed from the rabbinical courts, as has happened with matters of child support: “The decision proves, unfortunately, that matters concerning minors should be excluded from the treatment of rabbinical courts.” 

The Rabbinical Courts Administration added that either party can appeal the decision at the rabbinical appeals court in Jerusalem. The three judges who delivered the verdict were Pinchas Mondschein, Shneur Pardes and Bezalel Vogel.

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