The invention of the extended family of choice: the rise and fall (to date) of posthumous grandparenthood in Israel

Parents in various countries have contemplated having grandchildren from their deceased sons’ sperm; however, posthumous grandparenthood (PHG) has been permitted as a matter of policy only in Israel, leading to a significant body of litigation. Using document analysis of all published court cases involving PHG in Israel, we explore this turbulent sociolegal debate, framing the rulings within family theory. In this context, we introduce a new notion, the “extended family of choice,” created by parents after the death of a son in order to have grandchildren. We argue that PHG disrupts existing theoretical notions of the family, which are based largely on three continuums: traditional/postmodern; collective/individual; and nuclear/extended. Our findings demonstrate that Israeli courts have permitted parents to be extremely proactive and creative in pursuing PHG, the only limitations being an objection by the surviving partner, or the absence of one living biological parent.