‘Prove that you have a daughter’

Baby Dana was born prematurely, 270 days after her mother’s divorce. An archaic law requires that a baby born less than 300 days after a divorce be registered as the child of the mother’s former husband. The result: Dana’s biological father is not recognized. The Ministry of the Interior: ‘Our hands our tied’.

Dana’s only sin is being born prematurely. The punishment: The Ministry of Interior refuses to list her father on her birth certificate, and Dana, 4 months, is officially fatherless.

Moshe and Yael, aged 35 from the center of the country, are Dana’s parents. He is single. She is divorced. ‘In September 2009, I divorced my former husband’, she says. I met Moshe following the divorce and we became a couple. Some time later, I became pregnant. In June, I gave birth to our daughter, earlier than expected. After I recovered, I requested to register her as the daughter of my partner. We went the Ministry of the Interior, and there we were stunned to discover that the clerk refused to register him as the father. When we tried to clarify why, she claimed that there is a law that says that if you give birth less than 300 days after your divorce, you can register the baby as the child of your ex-spouse or as fatherless.  When Dana was born, only 270 days had passed, since I divorced my former husband, since she was premature.’

Yael was stunned. ‘Dana has a biological father, and here’s no reason why he shouldn’t be recognized as such. I suggested bringing all the medical documents and even the results of a DNA test that prove Moshe’s paternity, but the clerk refused, and Dana was registered only on my name’.

Moshe and Yael turned to Advocate Irit Rosenblum, executive director of New Family Organization. ‘There are 4,000 children with no registered father. At least 1,000 of them have no registered father because they were born during the 300 forbidden days, They are forced to turn to a court of law and to wage tiresome legal battles just to register their children,’ explained Rosenblum, who is handling the case with Advocate Avital Yashar Rosnai of New Family.

Rosenblum says that the origin of the law is Jewish religious law, halacha, which states that a divorced woman or widow is forbidden to another man for 90 days after divorcing or becoming widowed. This is called the ‘90 days of purity’. ‘The idea is to prevent the mixing of semen or blood between the women’s two partners, and to prevent any children conceived from having bastard status.’

But today, with advances in medical technologies, the identity of the father can be scientifically determined. ‘Unfortunately, the civil law’s source is ancient religious law. Today, pregnancies can be successful in under 300 days. This law is obsolete. It harms a growing population of divorced women who have began a new chapter in their lives’, says Rosenblum.

The consequences of the refusal to register Moshe as Dana’s father are severe. ‘Officially, he can’t be involved in her life. He can’t register her for school or get information from her daycare or schools. He can’t take her for medical care or get information about her health. He can’t take her abroad. On the other hand, since her mother lives with her spouse, they are considered common-law spouses and she is ineligible for benefits as a single mother’.

Yael explains, ‘If, God forbid, something should happen to me, Moshe is not recognized as Dana’s legal guardian. She will be alone in the world. Meanwhile, we can’t marry, because then it will be impossible to register him as Dana’s father’.

Yael and Moshe’s case will go to court. Advocate Irit Rosenblum is also advocating legislative changes. In the meantime, the hands of the Interior Ministry are tied. ‘We can’t exercise judgment in registering a child born to a woman less than 300 days after her divorce. Even if they bring DNA tests proving who the father is, we can’t register him. Only a court of law is authorized to rule on who the biological father is’, an Interior Ministry source says.

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