From the birth of a child until he reaches the age of 18 both his parents are his legal Guardians. Pursuant to this both parents are entitled to make decisions about the lifestyle of the minor, including where to learn, if he receives medical treatment, where he will live etc. As long as they are married the parents generally have an interest to coordinate their actions with the other parent.
Most divorce proceedings end with one parent (usually the mother) having custody of the children while the other parent has visitation rights.
Israeli courts generally do not award joint custody. That being said, joint custody is generally in the best interests of the children, at least when the parents are capable of cooperating with each other.
Even the non-custodial parent has the right to weigh in on significant issues such as where the child will live and his education. Courts will often preclude the custodial parent from moving to a place which will cause the non-custodial parent not to see the children but every case is judged on its merits and there have been cases where the court has allowed the custodial parent to even move overseas.
There is a legal presumption that until the age of 6 the child is better of with his mother. After this age the courts in theory have no preference for either parent but in practice the mother is generally given custody. In theory courts are also supposed to take the child`s wishes into account but in practice such wishes are generally ignored. Sometimes they even have the opposite of the desired effect because judges tend to be suspicious towards children who express a strong preference for one parent and the fear that that parent is unfairly influencing the child.
Many times the judge will appoint a social worker (pekidat saad) to write an objective review of the children`s situation. Occasionally the court will appoint a psychologist to do so, generally when one of the parents has claims about the other parents ability to properly raise a child. The judge also has the right to meet with the child without the presence of his parents.
When deciding on custody the court will review which parent is closer to children, attentive to their problems and feelings, shows them warmth and love and generally more involved in their children`s lives. In the end of the day, the decision regarding custody is far from a scientific one and is generally influenced by the judge`s personal biases and belief system. Even more so it is influenced by the general legal landscape which evolves slowly. As a rule judicial rhetoric precedes judicial action and so the rhetoric that is seen in current judgments, according to which fathers are seen as no less capable parents than mothers, should eventually translate into more custody judgments in the father`s favor.