In Israel, there is a legal difference between the ‘guardianship’ of children, and the “custody” of children. Generally, parents have rights and duties as minor children’s natural guardians – whether they are unmarried, separated, divorced or bereaved – whether they have custody over the children or not. The issue of which parent has which status is addressed either in the divorce agreement or through a court`s decision if there is litigation. In either event, you should discuss these issues with a competent attorney.
In Israel, parents are the natural guardians of their minor children. This means they have the duty and right to care for the minor’s needs, including education, ability to work etc.). They have an obligatory role to act for the preservation of the minor child’s property, its management and development; and in this context the parent has permission to raise/visit the minor and to decide on the minor’s place of residence and the authority to represent the minor. Guardianship remains even after divorce and exists even if you don’t have custody of the child. A parent can only be deprived of guardianship under certain, very strict conditions. For purposes of Guardianship, the only age that matters is 18 years – the age which parents have the guardianship of their minor children. The courts do not look at what the children want in this regard, and are mainly concerned that the parents are responsible for taking care of the minor’s needs.
Custody is the primary physical care and control of a child – and practically speaking the defining factor about where the minor child lives. In Israel the law presumes that the best interest of the child is to have the mother as custodian until the child is 6 years old. Courts will generally grant custody of a child under the age of 6 to the mother unless there are special grounds justifying otherwise (e.g. if the mother is proven to be a drug addict , a prostitute, mentally ill, etc.). However, the presumption that the best interest of the child is to have the mother as custodian changes when the minor child is already 10 years old, at which point the child’s wishes will generally be taken into account in custody cases. Furthermore, the court may appoint a professional to examine family relationships and to make recommendations about custody. This professional will meet with the child and ask and record their views. Generally, the judge accepts the recommendations of such reports. The wishes of teenagers are generally given very serious weight.