Japan Enacts Joint Custody Law Post-Divorce

Japanese lawmakers have approved new legislation on Friday that permits joint custody of children following a divorce. Previously, Japan’s legal system granted sole custody to one parent, typically the mother, as a protective measure against domestic violence and child abuse. However, this rule has faced criticism for severing the relationship between the non-custodial parent and their children.

Growing dissatisfaction among non-custodial parents, particularly fathers, who have limited access to their children has intensified the demand for legal changes. In 2019, a UN committee advised Japan to “allow for shared custody of children when it is in the child’s best interests, including for foreign parents.”

The newly passed bill stipulates that sole custody can continue if both parents consent to it as the best option, or in court-acknowledged instances of domestic violence or child abuse. Additionally, it allows one parent to make decisions about matters like education and health in emergency situations without needing the other parent’s consent.

There are no official statistics on the number of children separated from a parent in Japan. However, a 2022 survey by a support group for single mothers indicated that 80% of single parents in Japan were opposed to or reluctant about joint custody.

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