An article that would favor the financially stronger parent in child custody hearings was removed from a highly controversial bill on Monday, allowing the legislation to move to a first reading in the Knesset.

The bill being debated seeks to change the current law, which states that in families with a child under the age of six, the mother will receive automatic custody of all children in a divorce.

While MKs involved in the debate agree that the current law should be amended, Likud MK Yoav Kisch leads a camp that seeks to cancel automatic custody entirely, while MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) wants to lower the automatic custody age.

The bill has been a matter of dispute within the coalition for two years.

In January, the special committee on the bill added Kisch’s proposal under which the parents’ financial situation would be taken into consideration. That sparked outrage in the Moalem-Refaeli camp, which said such considerations would hurt women.

On Monday, that article was changed to say the courts should consider “the ability of each parent to take care of all of the minor’s needs.”

Committee chairman Ya’acov Margi (Shas) said, “If the bill moves forward, we will hold an in-depth debate on all of its articles and make decisions about all the remaining questions, especially the age of the minor.”

The current draft of the bill says automatic custody is granted in the case of a “toddler,” without defining a specific age. In other laws, a toddler refers to ages three and under.

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