In a post in late December entitled “Can I Have my Mommy Back” I wrote about a Jerusalem Family Court decision which accepted a suit that I filed on behalf of a woman who had relinquished legal guardianship over her children in a divorce agreement ratified before the Beit Din. At the end of that post, I said:
My only disappointment with the judgment was that the Court based its ruling on the rights of the children to two parents, and the fact that their interests were not taken into account when the decision was given force of judgment by the Beit Din. I would have rather seen a strong statement about public policy, which would mean that such an agreement offends the morals and basic values of Israeli society.
The postscript to this is that the ex-husband did try to appeal the decision in the District Court. I didn’t represent my client in that proceeding, but I learned that the judges in the District Court would have none of it, and basically, the ex-husband had to withdraw the appeal, leaving the decision as an important precedent (though not binding) for others in a similar situation.
Well, it turns out that the appellate court judge in the District Court, Justice Chana Ben-Ami, saw this as opportunity to write an important decision, and did exactly that. The decision was publicized last week, and can be seen here.
In the decision, she accepts the argument I made before the Family Court, that an agreement in which a parent relinquishes guardianship without the involvement of mental health professionals or serious oversight, violates public policy in the State of Israel, and is therefore void. This is a very important decision because it is now binding precedent on Family Courts, which means that other people who unwittingly relinquished guardianship now have recourse to the courts to reverse this horrific state of affairs.
Kudos to Justice Ben-Ami for taking advantage of this opportunity to address a tremendous injustice.