Motherhood, fatherhood and law: Child custody and visitation in Israel

Daphna Hacker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article analyses the ways notions of fatherhood and motherhood are constructed, negotiated and articulated during divorce proceedings in Israel. The analysis is based on in-depth interviews with divorced parents, lawyers, judges and therapeutic professionals, and on a wide sample of divorce court files involving child custody arrangements. The main finding of the study is that while motherhood is ordinarily perceived as a taken-for-granted caring essence, fatherhood is a vague concept that has yet to acquire concrete meaning. Treating the law as an overwhelming arena of conceptual negotiations and practical applications, the study also finds that legal professionals have a significant role in shaping how both women and men grasp and act upon their parental rights and duties. By and large, I find that the impact of legal professionals to that effect, combined with a rather conservative family law system in the shadow of which the parties operate, impedes innovation and discourages men from assuming expansive parental roles after divorce. Hence this study provides a rich example of the contribution of law to the gendered social expectations and coercions determining women and men's ability to shape their parental roles and identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-431
Number of pages23
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Custody
  • Divorce
  • Fatherhood
  • Israel
  • Motherhood
  • Visitation


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