One of the biggest challenges in divorce proceedings is the protection of children and their mental and physical wellbeing. The changes in the family structure, which occur when parents separate, impose many difficulties on children and parents.
It is of principal importance to ensure that the needs of the children of divorced couples are at the forefront. In most cases, this includes establishing conditions that enable significant and meaningful relationships with both parents.
Yet, each family constellation is unique and it is essential to construct a parenting plan according to the individual circumstances of
each family. In doing so, various questions require consideration:
- How will the children’s time with each parent be allocated?
- Will the children have two homes in which they share their time or will they have one primary residence and "visit" the other parent in his or her home?
- How is parental authority established in issues of childrearing and how are disagreements handled?
- Are there significant differences between the parents in terms of religion or religiosity or their approach to other issues such as education, health, diet etc.? If so, how are these differences handled?
- Should there be pre-determined rules or sanctions for instances where one of the parents violates the agreements or the parenting plan?
- What happens if a parent believes that the other parent is neglecting or harming the children?
Dr. Mazeh's research and practical experience in these matters have positioned him as a leading authority and one of the top policy experts in the field.
He has been a driving force behind major changes in the courts’ perspectives regarding post-separation parenthood, including a shift in the paradigms concerning custody and joint custody, child support, parental alienation and relocation.
To a large extent, Dr. Mazeh had shaped the current perceptions of Israeli courts and welfare agencies on these and other matters regarding post-separation parenting plans as described in other sections on this site.
Dr. Yoav Mazeh has led the paradigm shift regarding shared parenting, subject to that a parents in not harming the children. His innovative approach regarding the redundancy of the notion of custody, and the fact that courts do not need to use this problematic term, had been adopted by the Schneet Committte, and many judges apply Mazeh's approach on this matter.
Violation of Parenting Time Schedules
It is sad to say so, but some parents do not keep their parenting time schedules, and maintain an irregular relationship with the children. Such behavior is harmful to the children and causes pain.
In other cases, however, a parent violates the parenting time order in that he or she prevents the other parent from being with the children during the times that he or she are allowed to do so.
Dr. Mazeh's leading article on the enforcement of parenting time schedules elaborated on the available legal instruments for dealing with such instances, and has greatly influenced the caselaw and the approach of the welfare agencies, the police and the prosecution on this matter.
Until recently, child support in Israel has been determined according to a relatively fixed standard, which had been imposed many decades ago. The result has been that for people with a relatively low income – child support was too high, while for people with a particularly high income, in many cases child support was too low. This flaw was the result of the civil courts interpretation of the Jewish law, according to which the father has complete responsibility for the essential needs of the children. In a thorough article Dr. Mazeh proved the difficulties in this interpretation of the civil courts and explored the harms that are often the result of such interpretation of Jewish law. In a precedential case of the Supreme Court (RFA 919/15), the Court has accepted Dr. Mazeh's approach. In this judgment, the Supreme Court held that (whether custody is joint or not) from the age of six child support would not be determined by the parents gender but will rather be based on the income of both parents and the extent to which they take care of the children (i.e., their share in the parenting time).
Following this judgment, some had argued that it only applies in shared custody cases. In an additional article, Dr. Mazeh claimed that the Supreme Court's judgment applied to all types of custody. Dr. Mazeh demonstrated how the court's judgment is to be implemented in various situations and put forward a formula by which the judgment could be implemented. Indeed, subsequent caselaw has adopted Dr. Mazeh’s interpretation to the Supreme Court judgment.
It is heartbreaking to see that in some cases parents manipulate their children to oppose and become hostile towards the other parent. Parental alienation refers to a wide range of cases in which one parent leads the children to refuse or object to the relationship with the other parent. Many studies have shown the immense harm which this causes to the children, a harm which will not be healed throughout their lives.
Dr. Yoav Mazeh researched the legal aspects of this issue and has learned about its psychological aspects as well, including participation in workshops in various countries on this issue. He has assisted, along with Dr. Inbal Bar-On, (Ph.D), in shaping the policy of the Ministry of Welfare on this matter. Dr. Mazeh and Dr. Bar-On have jointly developed a structured intervention methodology, which has been adopted by the courts in cases of severe alienation.