Israeli Court Revokes Lesbian Mother's Adoption of Her Children, Setting Worrying Precedent

The family court revoked a divorced, non-biological mother’s parenthood at her and her ex-partner's request, calling it a rare case in which it was in the best interest of the children

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Members of Israel's LGBTQ community protest law on surrogacy rights that excludes gay men, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 31, 2018.
Members of Israel's LGBTQ community protest law on surrogacy rights that excludes gay men, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 31, 2018. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

A Tel Aviv court revoked the adoption of two children by their non-biological mother on Thursday, despite the state’s firm objection.

In the first such ruling in Israel, the family court revoked a divorced, non-biological mother’s parenthood of her former spouse’s two children, at both women’s request. The state and Social Affairs Ministry objected, claiming that revoking the adoption could harm the children.

Judge Sigalit Ofek ruled that step was for the good of the children because the connection between the children and their non-biological mother had been severed when their parents broke up five years ago.

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“There is no possibility of reestablishing the parental ties, nor would there be any benefit to it, and it would not be for the minors’ good either,” she ruled.

Legal observers and sources in told Haaretz they feared the verdict – albeit justified in this case – would have negative repercussions. They said it could prompt biological mothers to extort their partners in divorce proceedings by threatening to cast doubt on their parental relationship. But the women’s lawyers, Kinneret Bar-Lev and Shmuel Moran, said the case posed no risk to LGBTQ rights because every case stands on its own merits.

LGBTQ association head Hila Peer said it’s a complicated domestic relations case, but she said it could have dangerous implications for LGBTQ parents. “Parenthood cannot be revoked, regardless of whether it’s a straight or LGBTQ parent,” she said.

“We regret the ruling, particularly since the state itself objected through arguments similar to ours. However, it’s important to stress that this verdict deals with a specific and unusual case, in which there are no parental ties to the birth children and no desire for such ties on all sides. We must not extrapolate this to gay parents who raise children together, even through break-ups and crises.”

The women in the case became a couple in 2001. The biological mother had two children in 2010 and 2013, and they were adopted by her partner. In April 2015, the non-biological mother had her own child and the two women parted that year, before adoption proceedings for the child were completed by the two older children’s biological mother. Since the break-up, the youngest child’s mother has had no contact with her former spouses’ two children.

The youngest child’s mother filed the request to revoke her adoption of her former spouse’s two children. Her ex-partner joined in the request.

The Social Affairs Ministry’s legal adviser, who represented the state, argued that the request to revoke the adoption was not beneficial to the children. "The children should know their life story ... their narrative is important ... so that there are no secrets,” he said.

“It’s not right to make the mother disappear from their lives as though she never existed,” the state claimed. Experts including a social worker also presented their positions to the court at the trial.

The judge wrote that in general, an adoption in a homosexual or heterosexual family cannot be revoked merely because the parents break up. But in rare cases such as this one, she said, the good of the child dictates otherwise.

“This is a courageous, precedent-setting verdict that recognizes – despite the state’s objection – that in these specific circumstances, the non-biological mother had no ties with the children for five years and there were no parental relations between them,” said Bar-Lev, the biological mother’s lawyer.

Shmuel Moran, the non-biological mother’s lawyer, said “this is a brave and correct decision. In this rare case, the good of the children required it.”

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