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Japan passes revised law allowing joint child custody for divorced parents for first time

30 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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A choice of joint custody is a step in the right direction, but couples divorcing in Japan many years ago could willingly choose to co-parent. One parent would receive full custody and simply allow the other parent to remain involved in the child’s life. Some parents would choose that route. 

A problem remains, however, when a distressed divorcing parent desires to remove the other parent from the child’s life. That distressed parent is not going to choose joint custody and can resort to a false claim of domestic violence, which can easily be done in Japan, where no evidence is required to file a domestic violence claim and enter a government-run shelter for several weeks.

A distressed parent will often use the children as a tool to injure their spouse’s heart — which, in itself, is a form of child abuse, but perhaps not one recognized in Japan unfortunately.

Your spouse disappearing into a shelter with your children most certainly would not be desirable if you’re an innocent left-behind parent who loves the children deeply and has dedicated significant time and energy to their growth.

I have no problem with adults who feel a need for the safety of a shelter. But, all too often in Japan, a parent will enter a shelter with children and use the shelter to separate the kids from the other parent. Then, after years of separation from the other parent during required mediation or a family court case, judges will grant legal custody to the parent who has physical custody so as not to disrupt the life of the child. In Japan, those who have physical custody secure legal custody, and the shelters can be used to get that initial physical custody.

In 2011, Time magazine published an article titled “Japan is a Haven for International Child Abduction.” In the decade since, Japan has ratified the Hague treaty (2014) and will soon be offering a choice of joint custody (effective 2026). 

However, in practice, joint custody in Japan will be an option only if both parents agree to it. If one parent will not agree, the other parent (generally the one not in physical custody of the children) will be ruthlessly left behind.

9 ( +18 / -9 )

Japan leaps into the 20th century!!!

-19 ( +8 / -27 )

This is a step forward.

However, in practice, joint custody in Japan will be an option only if both parents agree to it. If one parent will not agree, the other parent (generally the one not in physical custody of the children) will be ruthlessly left behind.

And this law is intended to change that.

10 ( +18 / -8 )

The revision, the first to custody rights in nearly 80 years, is to take effect by 2026. It will allow divorced parents to choose either dual or single custody while requiring them to cooperate in ensuring their children’s rights and wellbeing.

Japan join signing of that convention in 1980 and finally will take effect by 2026. It takes 46 years for Japan to finally implement this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_child_abduction_in_Japan

-9 ( +14 / -23 )

@TaiwanIsNotChina

Japan leaps into the 20th century!!!

When the rest of us are in the 21st.

-9 ( +12 / -21 )

For so many years I have kept reading how Japan is behind the rest of the world regarding joint custody, and this passes but the amount of opposition especially on X is amazing. I've read what Asiaman7 wrote, but as Strangerland said the scenario he wrote about is supposed to be fixed by this new law. I'm sure in many countries claims of abuse are also used to sway a judge one way or another but I think it is better that both parents have the chance of seeing their children and not being totally cut off by a verdictive spouse.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

@MarkX & Strangerland

Under the revision, divorced parents who choose joint custody

The new law does not force joint custody on a parent who doesn’t desire it.

So if a divorcing dad desires it, but the mom doesn’t, sorry. We’re back to where we started: sole custody with unforceable visitation of a few hours a month.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

That means we can drop her baby off with the "fun dad" while we have fun over the weekend.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

They even have video of a Japanese crowd protesting at the Diet against joint custody..wow, Japan

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Congrats. Nippon, better late than never I guess.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Perhaps Japanese husbands are extremely abusive in the marriage is behind the scenes and that is why there’s so much resistance whereas in western countries husbands are typically well-behaved and non-abusive and you would need police intervention to prove otherwise.

-16 ( +1 / -17 )

However hopeful I was to see this new law being passed, it's a complete let-down to be honest. It's absolutely disappointing and I agree with Asiaman7 that this won't even change a tad bit in the current situation.

I am in the middle of a divorce, and guess what my wife did!? Exactly what Asiaman7 described.

My wife was frequently beating me, kicking me, smacking me in the face, even knocked me to the ground once and kneeled on my back and twisted my arm so that she could howl at me: "謝りなさい!!!", in front of our kids. All the kids were sobbing while watched their daddy being humiliated. I am still distressed from the memories as my wife howls at me and the kids are standing there crying.

And then, when I called the police during her last attack to help me, my wife just simply fled to a shelter. And just because she fled there, that shelter started handing out to her "certificates" like: "This person has fled from domestic violence" and such.. What the hell is with that? Why aren't these shelters criminally liable making false accusations and handing out these certificates without any evidence?

To make it worse, my wife started sending these certificates to all kind of places: child guidance center, health insurance, etc. And people just look at those "certificates" and started blaming me WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER. And now the kids are with my wife and no-one asks her not even a single question, because she fled to a shelter and she must be a victim, right? Oh, the poor woman...

How will this new law change that??? These f$%ing shelters and their abuse? Outrageous!

Also, it's so disappointing to see that the law allows joint custody, but not really forcing it! That should be the default! Joint custody for all couples. And if they wish, they can opt out. That would put the burden of proving on the accuser, not the victims.

Now to the news article:

In cases in which domestic violence or abuse by either parent is suspected, the other person will have sole custody, according to the revision.

I see this all over the place mistranslated. But that's not at all what the law says.

It says instead:

一方の親による家庭内暴力(DV)や虐待の恐れがあり、父母が共同して親権を行うことが困難と認められれば、家裁は必ず父母どちらかの単独親権とする。父母の合意がない場合でも、家裁が子の利益にかなうと判断した場合は、共同親権とされることもある。

So if there is a threat of domestic violence (DV) or abuse by one parent and it is deemed difficult for the parents to jointly exercise custody, the family court will always award sole custody to one of the parents. Even in cases where the parents do not agree, joint custody may be granted if the family court determines that it is in the best interest of the child.

Besides those things the law also says, that in light of the fact that friction can arise in the parent-child relationship if interactions between separated parents and children are disrupted due to divorce or separation, family courts may encourage trial parent-child interactions during mediation and adjudication procedures. The new law also establishes regulations that allow this.

The law also stipulates that parents have an obligation to respect each other's personalities and cooperate for the benefit of their children, regardless of whether they are married or not.

We will see how much of these are enforceable. I am not that hopeful that this law will change much.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

It’s only a paper law. If the mother doesn’t want the father to see his children (out of spite) she will just say, “I fear violence” and it will be all over. I haven’t seen my kids for 12 years for no other reason than she could ban me from seeing them. This joint custody ruling is a step in the right direction but there are many other laws that need to be updated for it to work. The crazy thing is, in most amicable divorces the fathers are given joint custody without this ruling and because this is only a paper law nothing will change.

-1 ( +11 / -12 )

One Q?,

Can those parents who were tortured, prevented, and stripped of their Natural Rights to be with their children because of these obsolete laws be financially compensated for their loses and mental destress???

Can those children demand in the courts of law that they see and their lost parents if they choose to do so?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Can those children who were stolen demand in the courts of law that they see and be with their lost parents if they choose to do so?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It’s rather impressive how this young woman has thrived since escaping an abduction attempt in Tokyo by her Japanese mother 14 years ago.

At the age of 17, she bravely recounted the ordeal in a TED talk. Link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsBSOgROu1w

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Welcome to the 21st-century Japan!

Joking aside, this is a momentous step, but you have to feel for all those dads who have already lost touch with their kids.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

Excellent news, as it should be.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

for first time

well, congratulations.

Something that should’ve been done some 30-40 years ago.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

can resort to a false claim of domestic violence, which can easily be done in Japan, where no evidence is required to file a domestic violence claim and enter a government-run shelter for several weeks.

Evidence may not be required to apply to enter a shelter due to domestic violence but we cannot assume evidence is not required under single custody filings as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

but we cannot assume evidence is not required under single custody filings as well.

Evidence of domestic violence is not required to assert a preference for sole custody.

As long as you have possession of the children during the multiple years of mediation followed by the time required for possible adjudication, no judge is going to remove those children from their settled environment.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I have to agree with most here that it is a step in a good direction.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Finally! This is something that's been bothering me about Japan since the early 1980s. I was always grateful my parents got divorced in the US rather than here in Japan. Kids will benefit from this greatly - not to mention the dads.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Maybe not such a great idea, especially in certain cases.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I feel for you almakukac and you are not alone. Your only chance is to hire a good lawyer in family law, preferably a woman and keep notebook records of each interaction with your wife. You will have to dispute each allegation of abuse calmly. Written evidence actually carries more weight than your oral recollection. And keep working and living life. Good luck.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

parents have an obligation to respect each other's personalities and cooperate for the benefit of their children, regardless of whether they are married or not

my daughter likes this law...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It has only taken 80years, wow!!...is this a record?...As a young unmarried female but with a female partner, we both feel this new law is only what shoud be the start of a complete over haul of the marriage system, and not just in Japan. Men are not the only abusers in a marriage, as has been proven many many times every where, but they are naturally suspected of it. And they shoud have instigated a complete over haul in the justice system, if one can actually call it justice because it invariably favours the well of and rich.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

my daughter still likes this law, and things will be easier when children can vote... even babies!!

https://japantoday.com/category/politics/osaka-governor-suggests-lowering-voting-age-to-0-to-curb-population-decline

0 ( +0 / -0 )

who rushed to pass Japan version defective "joint custody" are far-right crowds espousing prewar totalitarianism such as selfish and corrupted LDP government or religious cult who cling to patriarchy and supporting LDP, they and their laws always dislike human rights.

This revised law will deteriorate situation as same as other LDP politics.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

How about divorces where one of the parents is not a Japanese national? Does this apply?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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