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Rabbinic court awards custody to father suspected of sexually abusing his kids

Attorney for mother says judges gave no reason for ruling, which Rabbinical Courts Administration says was made ‘in accordance with the well-being of the children’

Illustrative: A man stands outside the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: A man stands outside the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Rabbinical Court last month granted a father custody over his children despite suspicions by authorities that he sexually assaulted his daughter.

The decision goes against the advice of police and social workers, who have recommended the children be placed with their mother, the Ynet news site reported.

Attorney Batya Kahane-Dror, who is representing the mother, said the District Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem gave no reason for the ruling, which it handed out without a prior hearing or a statement from the mother, the Haaretz daily reported Tuesday.

The children are caught in a custody battle between the father and his estranged wife, who, due to medical issues, has difficulty caring for the children.

In the decision, the judges said the father’s custody was temporary, until the mother “fully cooperates” with the court and a psychologist it appointed who is being paid by the father.

The father was arrested last year after video emerged of him apparently abusing his daughter. He has denied the abuse and claimed he filmed his daughter reenacting a sexual assault by a different family member in order to file a complaint to authorities.

He presented the footage to welfare services of his own accord, which is how the video came to light. Police were unconvinced by his explanation and are seeking charges of an indecent act on a minor and rape of a minor within the family.

None of the names or identifying details of those involved were provided in the reports due to the nature of the case.

According to the Ynet report, the father had initially been granted the right to take care of the children. Following his arrest, the rabbinic court ruled that the mother should be put in charge while granting the father visiting rights under the supervision of welfare services.

The court appointed a psychologist to monitor the meetings between the father and children, then later enabled the psychologist to make suggestions about the visits. The mother, via an attorney, refused to recognize the psychologist’s authority, claiming he would not be objective, and refused to cooperate with him.

Over time, the psychologist changed his opinion from recommending joint custody to giving the father full control over the children, based on an external opinion that estimated the father presented a low threat to the children.

The rabbinic judges adopted the psychologist’s opinion and last month ruled that the father should get custody.

“This is a complicated case about which hearings were held and detailed decisions made, which cannot be elaborated on due to the nature of the details,” the rabbinical courts administration said in regard to the ruling.

It also said the court “decides only in accordance with the well-being of the children and with regards to the totality of the evidence brought before it.”

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