Mrs. Smith appeared in front of the Honorable Judge Mr. Yoram Shaked from the Family Court of Ramat Gan (A.L v’ D.L 32748-01-12, on January 1st, 2012) asking for “protection”, meaning a restraining order prohibiting her husband (the respondent ) to come near her or the house. She claimed that Mr. Smith had attacked her, slapped her in the face and even threatened her all in front of their two young daughters and added: “All scenes are always near the girls”.
That same day the Judge decided to accept her request and remove the husband from the home prohibiting him to come near her or the house until the next hearing in 10 days.
Before the next hearing both sides agreed on an extension on the prohibition for another two weeks hoping that in the meantime they could reach an agreement between themselves. The judge consented and a later date for a hearing was scheduled.
On the scheduled day the contenders sent a joint request to the judge asking for a cancelation of the restraining order and also notifying that they would now be going to marriage counseling together. The judge of course did as requested (probably hoping it would be the end of the conflict).
Eight months after the joint request, Mrs. Smith (now the plaintiff) sued her husband for: Child Alimony, Divorce and Custody of the children. A few days later she asked for a new restraining order because of a new violent event. In this new “violent event” as she told the Judge, Mr. Smith entered the apartment with his father, changed the lock, and attacked her – again in the presence of their young daughters.
Mr. Smith (now the defendant) had a different version when he responded to the court; he reported that Mrs. Smith had brought her lover into the house with the sole purpose of causing an uproar of jealousy. In addition, he claimed that he was attacked by Mrs. Smith. As evidence he presented a real-time recording that he had made of the event.
The Judge wrote in his decision: “…I tried to bring the contenders to a rational agreement but because of the mutual hostility and suspicious nature, this was impossible.. Unfortunately the best interest of the children is not the parents’ priority…”
The Judge was fast in understanding the real issue behind the conflict and the enormous efforts they were making to remove each other from the property (the apartment they lived in). The wife, despite the fact that the property was listed in both names, claimed exclusive ownership of the property because the money to purchase the property was given by her family. This was mostly about money – but not exclusively.
Another secondary issue was the fact that Mrs. Smith apparently was having an affair (she was still married at this point to Mr. Smith). The judge was very realistic in stating that without any doubt it was now impossible to convince Mr. Smith that Mrs. Smith was not having an affair, not after a video was presented showing a man coming in and out of the apartment at odd hours.
The judge was correct in telling Mrs. Smith she could not expect total forgiveness for her (apparently) own wrong doing. The judge quoted one of the very famous cases in the Israeli legal history: Azuelos v’ The State of Israel where the honorable former Chief Justice Mr. Aaron Barak wrote in his decision: “… Israeli male’s blood and Israeli female’s blood may boil when they see their partner having an affair…”
The judge explained the situation where the sides were emotionally trapped in by saying:
“Nothing can justify violence against a spouse, not even an act of treason constitutes justification or explanation for violence. However, when a stranger (a man) is brought in the parties’ home, not to mention, when this same man threatens the husband (as was the case) , this is to be seen as a clear act of provocation from the spouse. The spouse’s personal matters are not a concern of the Court, but when such acts occur under the nose of the respondent (the husband), in his own home, and when their daughters were present, it should not be a surprise to anyone if this act would instigate the heat of conflict.”
The judge after reading the tape’s transcripts and listening to them, wrote in his decision: “It was clear that both sides used violence toward each other… the worse though was that the children were crying in the background during the entire violent event when both parents continued fighting and would not stop even for the sake of the children”.
From the tapes one can learn how many times the girls asked to leave, crying and begging but the parents would not stop the fight and all for the sake of collecting evidence by recording the event hoping the other side would say something incriminating.
The judge’s final decision was made based on the tapes where it was clear that violence was part of the contender’s day-to-day behavior. It was also clear that the contenders had no respect whatsoever for the children’s best interest as he stated in his decision: “the disagreement regarding the property must be resolved in court and in court only, but under no circumstances at the children’s expense as has been the case thus far”.
As a result of the contender’s violent behavior toward each other, it was therefore decided that neither of them would be kept out of the home by restraining order.
Having the children’s best interest in mind, the judge decided that until the question of the ownership was resolved, the couple will “divide” the home. Each one of them would use the home for one week alternating in sequence, but each one could use only one room for him/herself.
Like little kids they were given instructions regarding how to behave and how to divide the home including a broad schedule with specific hours and other instructions.
The social workers would be immediately involved and if the father was to sue for custody as well (as the mother did), both patents would be sent to a parental capacity test.
Why the children?
It is not clear why parents use children as a weapon demonstrating a total disregard for the children’s best interest. Marital problems are never a children’s war and they should not be involved.
What to expect?
If the husband and wife cannot reach an agreement without harming their own children emotionally, then they cannot expect anything else but for the court to relate to the parents as children themselves, as it was in this case.