Israel’s “Obligatory Divorce Mediation” law, implemented in July 2016, has brought significant changes to the divorce litigation process. While it is often misunderstood as mandatory mediation before obtaining a divorce, this law primarily focuses on organizing the legal procedures rather than altering the substantive issues. Let’s explore the key elements of this law and its practical implications.
The Process: Under the “Obligatory Divorce Mediation” law, the divorce litigation process in Israel follows a structured approach:
- Filing a Bakasha LiYashev Sichsuch: One spouse, known as Spouse A, files a formal request with either the Family Court or the Rabbinic Court, notifying them of the dispute with Spouse B. This initiates a 45-day freeze period during which neither party can file lawsuits against each other, except for emergency requests.
- Initial Meeting with a Court-Appointed Social Worker: Both spouses attend an initial meeting with a court-appointed social worker. During this meeting, the social worker evaluates the situation and provides recommendations. The options may include further meetings with the social worker, seeking marital therapy, opting for mediation, or proceeding with divorce through the courts. These meetings with the social worker are free of charge, while consultations with other professionals may incur fees. Initially, attorneys do not attend this meeting, but they can communicate with their clients via telephone. If subsequent meetings with the social worker are required, attorneys may be present.
Conclusion of the Mediation Period: After 45 days (or a mutually agreed extended period), the filing spouse can initiate lawsuits against their partner within a 15-day window.
Challenges and Criticisms: The “Obligatory Divorce Mediation” law has faced challenges in its implementation. The shortage of social workers has led to delays, resulting in non-compliance with the prescribed timeframes. Parties involved often file motions to alter or eliminate the mediation period, further hindering the intended benefits of the law. As a result, the law has not been highly effective for couples who could have reached agreements outside the court system. For couples unable to find common ground, the law’s impact remains limited.
Israel’s “Obligatory Divorce Mediation” law, introduced in July 2016, aimed to streamline the divorce litigation process. While it provides an avenue for mediation, the law has faced challenges due to a shortage of social workers and subsequent delays. Its impact has been less significant for couples who could have resolved their issues independently while offering limited assistance to those unable to reach agreements. Further improvements and reforms are necessary to ensure the law’s effectiveness in promoting successful mediation outcomes in divorce cases.
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