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Paternity tests and the journey to Israeli citizenship

Paternity tests and the journey to Israeli citizenship

Written by: Samara Becker

As a general rule, a child born to an Israeli citizen, whether abroad or in Israel, is considered an Israeli citizen by birth. From the moment that child is born, they are Israeli citizens since either their father or mother is Israeli. Israeli law requires the child to be registered within the first 30 days. This seems very clear cut, but in many cases it is not. The Israeli Ministry of Interior sometimes questions the legitimacy of the child’s Israeli citizenship for various reasons. When the eligibility of a child’s right to Israeli citizenship is questioned, the process of paternity testing is required, creating possible stress for families and months of time spent on the issue. Contacting a knowledgeable lawyer makes this process go smoothly, decreasing stress and worry.

Why would someone be required to take a paternity test?

         The Israeli Ministry of Interior may require someone to take a paternity test for a number of reasons. To begin, if the state of Israel does not recognize the relationship between a mother and father as legitimate, the need for a paternity tests may become apparent. Most commonly, recognized relationships in the state of Israel are marriages that have official certificates, or common-law relationships where the couple was together for at least 10 months before their child was born. While the 10-moth regulation is stated, many times Israel will not even honor these relationships, as the couple is still not actually married. Because marriage is less common in today’s society, this poses as an issue for many couples. In their eyes they are equal partners in their relationship, but to the state of Israel their relationship is not actually recognized. Further, some couples, whether on purpose or on accident, have children soon into their relationship. The state of Israel may question the paternity of these children, as they were together for less than 10 months before the birth of their child. When the mother of the child is Israeli, there is no question about the legitimacy about the child being Israeli since the baby comes from the mother, but when the father is Israeli, paternity testing may become apparent.

Can a paternity test be taken anywhere at anytime?

         The answer to this question is most definitely not. If a father were to take a paternity test along with testing the family wherever they chose and whenever they wanted, the test would be rejected immediately. When at the Israeli family court asking for an order for a paternity test, it needs to be proved that the mother is not Jewish through documents, etc.  Once a father and family know that they need to take a paternity/DNA test to grant their child Israeli citizenship, that family must submit a claim and needs an order for a paternity test from the Israeli Family Court system. Once this order is administered, there are four hospitals in Israel that are accepted to do the testing. These hospitals are located in Jerusalem, Sheba, the Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikvah, and Haifa.

Are paternity tests expensive?

         Even if a paternity test is ordered by the Israeli family court, the family must still pay for the paternity test themselves. All three members involved need to take a test, including the mother, father, and child in question. When paying for all 3 samples, testing can become expensive. Paternity tests can be both blood or saliva tests, and their prices can range anywhere from NIS 1,331 to NIS 1,725 per sample. The prices may differ between blood and saliva tests, and depending on which of the four hospitals you go to, the prices and type of test varies.

The paternity test was taken… now what?

         Once the paternity test is taken at one of the four allowed hospitals, the lab of that hospital will examine the test, and form their decision. This decision is then sent back to the family court that sent out the order. This process can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, differing based on the urgency of the case. The decision of the lab is sent back to the court extremely carefully, keeping all information confidential at all times. The results of the test remain fully confidential from the time the lab sends it out, until the moment the decision is given to the family by a judge.

Misconceptions about paternity testing

         Since Israel has the Law of Return, stating that any Jew or child and grandchild of a jew is allowed to immigrate to Israel, many questions come up regarding paternity testing. While many people think that paternity testing can be used as evidence to prove their eligibility to immigrate to Israel, this is not the case. Because DNA and paternity testing is sometimes unreliable, along with instances of religion converting, paternity testing is prohibited as evidence for immigrating to Israel. Paternity testing is saved for circumstances described above, when an Israeli parent gives birth to a child, and needs to prove that the child is theirs for citizenship.

Person waving the flag of State of Israel

Seeking help from immigration lawyer

         When it comes to children and family, people get extremely overprotective and emotional. This is human nature, but sometimes an outside professional perspective is necessary to keep matters professional, rather than emotional. Hiring a lawyer to guide you throughout this process is not only extremely beneficial, but it can also be necessary, as these process can become drawn out. While most cases are straightforward, some, like the case that follows, are not as straightforward and require a lot of legal help. *Details of the case were changed to protect the privacy of the client*

Interesting case study

        Our immigration law office undertook the case of an American man in his early 20’s from Miami. He had grown up all his life knowing his father was Israeli, but with no memories of him. The father had left when the son was under two years old. When the man decided to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a semester, he sought out his father, in an attempt to rekindle their relationship. After spending quality time with his father, he fell in love with the country, was enjoying his new familial relationship, and wished to obtain Israeli citizenship.

Ramifications of not registering child in time

         The Israeli immigration office served as the first obstacle for this father and son. Because the son was not registered as an Israeli within the first 30 days of birth, the immigration office demanded a paternity test to prove that the son was actually his. The father had no objections, even offering to pay for both him and his son’s tests.

Absent mother harms court case

         The next challenge arose once it was time for the mother to consent to the test. The son revealed that his mother is an alcoholic, and has been homeless for the past couple years, having no contact with one another. The son revealed he had no idea where his mother was, as his grandmother had raised him most of his life. Permission was asked from the court for time to find the mother, to which the court said yes. After taking many avenues to find the mother, no progress was made, sending the father and son back to court. With the help of Joshua Pex, the father and son asked the court to make a special exception, allowing them to have DNA tests for just the father and son, excluding the mother. After some time, the court agreed after seeing proof and documents from the grandmother and a social worker that the mother was untraceable and unfit.

The day in court

         Once the DNA samples had been reviewed by the lab, the father and son were told to come into court to hear the verdict. While at court, something strange happened. Usually revealing the verdict from the lab is a very simple and quick process, but this day was different. The judge had everyone leave the room that was not necessary to the case and revealed that the father was not actually the father to the son. This served as a huge shock, as the fathers name is the one on the son’s birth certificate. To make matters worse, the mother is nowhere to be found to clear up the issue. Although the son is no longer able to obtain Israeli citizenship, there are other avenues he came pursue to stay in Israel.

How a lawyer helped

While this case includes bizarre circumstances that are not very common, the point of this story is to show how bumps in the road arise all the time in cases where paternity tests are involved, creating time obstacles and other problems. Having a professional lawyer to help you navigate the process is sometimes more than necessary, as in this case. Without a lawyer in this case, the father and son may not have learned they weren’t actually related for years and years, where a lawyer helped this case be over as soon as possible, helping emotionally as much as possible.