Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Voice of the Child

Judicial systems do not function in a sterile law only environment; they but affect the emotional lives of the litigants and others. The perception that the task of the court is not only to decide the specific legal issue before it, but also to solve the underlying problem that gave rise to the dispute, requires a holistic view of the parties and their relationships and situations. A judgment of the court which takes into account the environment in which the issue arose will have a much greater chance of preventing further litigation. This is the basis of Therapeutic Jurisprudence.

The Israeli Family Court system has, since its establishment in 1995, harnessed the judicial process and the helping professions together, in order to ensure that family relationship problems should, if at all possible, be resolved by conciliation and agreement, and that judicial determination of disputes should be the last resort, only if all other possibilities have failed. The system is holistic, and takes full account of the psychological and emotional aspects of family problems, and the damage to the parties, and especially to children, which is an inevitable result of adversarial litigation.

Essential to this ideology a Support Unit, also called Family Court Social Services is attached to every Family Court. The FCSS help the families by providing essential information about treatment alternatives and dispute resolution services. They also provide short term treatment, counselling and mediation; they conduct workshops for divorcing and separating couples free of charge.

Israel is signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 12 of which provides that the child should be given an opportunity to express his opinion on any matter concerning him. Pursuant to Israel’s adoption of the CRC a Legislative committee was set up by the Minister of Justice with a view inter alia to applying Article 12. In order to test the recommendations as to the method by which the child’s voice would be heard in proceedings concerning him, a pilot scheme was set up in the Family Court in Jerusalem. Philip Marcus was at the time Deputy President for Family Matters for the Jerusalem district, and chief judge of the Family Court, and was fully involved in developing and activating the pilot project It was deemed to be a success, and rules of court, embodying the procedure utilized in the pilot, with certain changes, are now in force in all courts.

Philip Marcus has studied Family Court systems in many countries, including reviewing legislation and sitting in on hearings in courts. He is consulted by judges and legislators, and practitioners and academics in law, social work, psychology and other disciplines about the application of therapeutic ideas in courts which handle family cases. The consultations include programming for training and adapting procedures, and legislative changes where necessary.

Fees by arrangement.

For more information and to arrange a consultation, please contact:


Paper (in Hebrew): The Future of the Family Court: New Paradigms, Statutory Amendments, and More, January 2013

Position Paper:  on Report of the Committee to Review the Policy of the Ministry on Removal of Children to Residential Care and on Visitation (The Silman Report) Delivered to the Minister and the Director General, Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, July 2014

Position Paper: on the Arrangements for Settlement of Family Disputes Bill, 5774-2014 Delivered to the Minister of Justice and the Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Legislation Committee of the Knesset, August 2014

Position Paper: Legal Capacity and Guardianship (Amendment No 19) Bill Delivered to the Ministry of Justice and Welfare Ministry, January 2015

Article: Children’s Dispute Resolution: The Israeli Experience Published in: Katherine Lynch and Anne Scully-Hill (eds) International Perspectives on Disputes About Children and Child Protection: Collected Essays on Parental Responsibility and Children’s Dispute Resolution, 167-183, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2016

Article: Parental Responsibilities: Reformulating the Paradigm for Parent-Child Relationships
Part 1: What is wrong with the ways in which we deal with the children of separated parents, and how to put them right.
Part 2: Who has responsibilities to children and what are these responsibilities? Published in Journal of Child Custody , 83-105 and 106-133, October 2017

Article: The Israel Family Court – Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Jurisprudential Therapy from the Start Published in The International Journal of Law & Psychiatry, Special Issue: Therapeutic Jurisprudence Today and Tomorrow, Vol. 63, 68-75, March-April 2019

Editorial (on proposals for family court reform). Irish Journal of Family Law, Vol 23 No 1 Winter 2020

Innovative Programs in Israel for Prevention & Responding to Parental Alienation: Education, Early Identification and Timely, Effective Intervention  Family Court Review, Volume 58 Issue 2, 545-599, April 2020