Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Custody laws: Does the daughter automatically go the mother as the Talmud seems to indicate?

In a recent discussion it was claimed that the mother always gets custody of the daughter and that Rav Sternbuch's statement that custody is determined by the best interest of the child is a "chidush". Here is a cogent discussion about the issue and clearly establishes that the principle of what is in the best interest of the child is an established principle by a number of major poskim.

The principle of to do what is best for the child - even though there is a general preference that the daughter goes to the mother -  is expressed by the Rashba (38) traditionally ascribed to Ramban.

שו"ת הרשב"א המיוחסות לרמב"ן סימן לח
שאלה: ראובן שמת והניח בנים, והאלמנה תובעת מן האפוטרופסים מזונות, מחמת היתומים בניה. והאפוטרופוסים אומרים: יבואו היתומים אצלנו, ונפרנס השנים מהם משלנו. והאחרים נקל עליהם מן ההוצאה. והאלמנה אומרת: איני רוצה שיהיו בני אצל אחרים, אלא אצלי. ואף על פי שהאפוטרופסים קרובים הם, ואינם ראויים לירש. הדין עם מי?

תשובה: הבת לעולם אצל האם, ואפילו נשאת האם, לא שנא גדולה או קטנה, כדאיתא פרק הנושא (דף קב:). והטעם: כדי שתרגיל האם לבת, ותלמדה דרך נשים, ושלא תרגיל עצמה בפריצות. אבל הבן, יותר ראוי להיות אצל האנשים הקרובים. שהם ירגילוהו וילמדוהו דרך הלמוד. ודרך אנשים יותר מן האם. שבני האלמנה דרכם דרך זר. ולא אמרו: שלא יהא הבן אצל קרוב, אלא בעודו קטן, ואצל מי שראוי ליורשו, ומשום מעשה שהיה. וכדתניא ריש פרק הנושא (שם /ק"ב/) מי שמת, והניח בן קטן לאמו, יורשי האב אומרים: יהא גדל אצלנו, ואמו אומרת: יהא גדל אצלי. אין מניחים אותו אצל מי שראוי ליורשו. מעשה היה ושחטוהו ע"פ =ערב פסח=. אלמא: דוקא קטן, ואצל מי שראוי ליורשו. הא כל שאין קטן, שאין בו חשש רציחה, וא"נ קטן אצל קרוב שאינו ראוי ליורשו, מניחים אותו אצל הקרובים, ולא אצל האם. ולעולם צריך לדקדק בכלל לדברים אלו, אחר מה שיראה בעיני ב"ד בכל מקום ומקום, שיש בו יותר תיקון ליתומים. שב"ד אביהם של יתומים, לחזור אחר תקונן /עיין ש"ע אה"ע סי' פ"ב סעיף ז

שולחן ערוך אבן העזר הלכות כתובות סימן פב
סעיף ז
י] שלמו חדשיו וגמלתו, אם רצתה המגורשת שיהיה בנה אצלה, ז (ח) אין מפרישין אותו ממנה {ד} עד שיהיה בן שש שנים גמורות, אלא כופין את אביו ונותן לו מזונות והוא אצל אמו; יא] ואחר ו' שנים ח יש לאב לומר: {ה} אם אינו אצלי (ט) לא אתן לו מזונות. ט והבת אצל אמה לעולם, יב] ואפילו לאחר ו'. כיצד, היה האב ראוי לצדקה, מוציאין ממנו הראוי לה בעל כרחו, וזנין אותה והיא אצל אמה; ואפילו נשאת האם לאחר, בתה אצלה ואביה זן אותה משום צדקה, עד שימות האב ותיזון אח"כ מנכסיו בתנאי כתובתה והיא אצל אמה. הגה: יג] ודוקא שנראה לב"ד שטוב לבת להיות עם אמה, אבל אם נראה להם שטוב לה יותר לישב עם בית אביה, י {ו} אין האם (י) יכולה לכוף שתהיה עמה (ר"מ פדוואה סימן צ"ג /נ"ג/). מתה האם, יא (יא) {ז} אין אם אמה יכולה לכוף שיהיו הבנים עמה (ב"י בשם הרשב"ץ).

JLaw    by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde
As explained below, two very different theories, one called "parental rights" and one called "best interest of the child" exist in Jewish law. These two theories are somewhat in tension, but also lead to similar results in many cases, as the best interests of the child often will coincide with granting parents rights. There is a basic dispute within Jewish law as to why and through what legal claim parents have custody of their children. Indeed this dispute is crucial to understanding why Jewish law accepts that a "fit" parent is entitled to child custody -- even if it can be shown that others can raise the child in a better manner. Rabbi Asher ben Yecheil (Rosh), in the course of discussing the obligation to support one's children, adopts what appears to be a naturalist theory of parental rights....R. Asher appears to adopt the theory that the father is the presumptive custodial parent of his children based on his obligations and rights as a natural parent, subject to the limitation that even a natural parent cannot have custody of his children if he is factually unfit to raise them. For the same reason, in situations where the Sages assigned custody to the mother rather than the father, that custody is based on a rabbinically ordered transfer of rights. While this understanding of the parent's rights is not quite the same as a property right, it is far more a right (and duty) related to possession than a rule about the "best interest" of the child. The position of R. Asher seems to have a substantial basis in the works of a number of authorities. There is a second theory of parental custody in Jewish law, the approach of Rabbi Solomon ben R. Aderet (Rashba). R. Aderet indicates that Jewish law always accepts -- as a matter of law -- that child custody matters (upon termination of the marriage) be determined according to the "best interests of the child"..... R. Aderet accepts that all child custody determinations involve a single legal standard: the best interest of the child, regardless of the specific facts involved. According to this approach, the "rules" that one encounters in the field of child custody are not really "rules of law" at all, but rather the presumptive assessment by the talmudic Sages as to what generally is in the best interest of children. An enormous theoretical difference exists between R. Asher and R. Aderet. According to R. Aderet, the law allows transfer of Custodial rights (even from their parents) in any situation where it can be shown that the children are not being raised in their best interests and another would raise them in a manner more in their best interest....

III. Determinations of Custody Between Parents The Talmud seems to embrace three rules that govern child custody disputes between parents:

1. Custody of all children under the age of six is to be given to the mother;

2. Custody of boys over the age of six is to be given to the father;

3. Custody of girls over the age of six is to be given to the mother.

.....The above talmudic rules, read in a vacuum, appear to provide no measure of flexibility at all and mandate the mechanical placement of children into the appropriate category. However, Jewish law, as has been demonstrated by others, never understood these rules as cast in stone; all decisors accepted that there are circumstances where the interest of the child overwhelmed the obligation to follow the rules in all circumstances. It is apparent, however, that this interpretation of the talmudic precepts, which turns these rules into mere presumptions -- and allows custody to be given contrary to the Talmudic rules -- is understood by the various authorities in different ways.....

However, an examination of the responsa literature and decisions of the Rabbinical Courts in Israel does indicate that two schools of thought exist on this issue. Many decisors rule that these presumptive rules are relatively strong ones and can only be reversed when it is obvious that the parent who would be granted custody (or already has custody) is unfit. Other decisors adopt a lower standard and permit granting custody contrary to the talmudic rules when these presumptions are not in the best interest of the specific child whose case is being adjudicated.....


  1. If i may make a cynical comment -
    this is an open orthodox viewpoint, as is R' Shternbuch's chidush.
    You are only using it to support the preconceived position you wish to arrive at, which is that Tamar and RSK are totally in the wrong, and that her detractors are totally in the right.

  2. you are right about it being a cynical comment
    but you are wrong about dismissing it as open orthodox

  3. of course. I am simply presenting the "fundamentalist" viewpoint. I personally agree with the best interests of the child viewpoint. There are many areas where MO Rabbis will bring some opinions about halachic chiddush and rishonim, to support their ideas. yet they are slaughtered when they say such things. So why is this any different?
    An example might be when R' Rackman alluded to the Meiri on rabbinic fences. The "joke" was that the Telshe Rosh yeshiva who attacked him for this in the JO, was ignorant of the Meiri that he had relied on!

  4. When discussing pure halacha and the custody of daughters automatically be given to divorced mothers, we must also recognize pure halacha regarding sons over nursing age (or five years of age) automatically going to the custody of the father who has the halachic obligations of bringing them up, teaching them Torah, etc.

    So give the daughters to the mothers and the sons to the fathers.

  5. Another pertinent point here is that custody decisions, including determinations of the "best interests of the child", must be made only by Beis Din and not by arkoyos (non-Jewish courts). And the Beis Din must make these decisions using Jewish Law and not non-Jewish Law.


  6. 1. Custody of all children under the age of six is to be given to the mother;

    2. Custody of boys over the age of six is to be given to the father;

    3. Custody of girls over the age of six is to be given to the mother.

    All things being equal, if both the father and mother are equally capable parents and equally able to raise their children, these above default positions of Jewish Law regarding the custody of children should be utilized and implemented and ruled in accordance with by Beis Din in custody determinations.

    And the average normal default father and mother are typically both capable and able parents.

  7. End of the day
    הבת אצל אמה לעולם

  8. you obviously didn't read the article

  9. U can kvetch here and kvetch there, normative halacha says that AF has more then enough visitation


  11. Eddie you are not presenting the "fundamentalist view". You are simply ignoring the sources and claiming it is a view. This has nothing to do with Modern Orthodox or Open Orthodox. Who are the fundamentalists you claim to be describing?

  12. how she will provide if she stays home? unless the pension is beyond good to keep the mother unemployed and satisfied forever.

  13. Now that you have brought the Rema et al, I am forced to withdraw my claim.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.