Japan Passes Amendment Allowing Joint Custody After Divorce: What You Need to Know

In a historic move, Japan’s Diet passed a proposed amendment to the Civil Code on Friday that will allow both parents to share custody of their children after a divorce. The new system is expected to go into effect by fiscal 2026 and it is the first time in more than 70 years that the system has been changed.

The current law only grants sole custody to either parent after a divorce, leaving many children without regular access to one of their parents. The proposed amendment puts an end to this and offers a solution that prioritizes the well-being of the child and encourages the involvement of both parents in their lives.

The plenary session of the House of Councillors passed the amendment with a majority of votes from both the ruling and opposition parties. The amendment being bipartisan in nature indicates that there was a general consensus that Japan’s current family law system needed to be updated.

The new system that has been proposed gives parents the ability to choose how they want to share custody, as long as they can both come to an agreement. However, if they cannot agree, family courts will step in and determine custody. The courts will need to assess the technicalities of the case and make a fair determination based on the needs of the child.

The amendment also stipulates that sole custody must be granted if there is any concern over child abuse or domestic violence. This is a significant and positive step towards protecting children who may be vulnerable to dangerous situations, and ensuring their safety. The idea is that the child’s well-being will always come first and the new system will incentivize both parents to work together for the benefit of the child.

Those who have already finalized their divorces prior to the amendment going into effect can still switch to a joint custody agreement after receiving approval from the family court system. This shows that the government is committed to bringing positive change in a period where families are already in the midst of turmoil.

Under the new system, if parents share custody, one parent can still make decisions in various urgent situations such as emergency surgery or escaping an abusive environment. This flexibility ensures that the child’s needs are met in case of unforeseen emergencies.

The passing of the proposed amendment to the Civil Code is a sign of Japan’s growing commitment to modernizing their legal system and bringing it in line with international standards. It is also expected to contribute towards a more gender equal society by acknowledging both parents’ responsibilities towards their children.

Japan has been criticized for its custody system in the past, particularly for its willingness to award sole custody to mothers, which often leads to estrangement between fathers and their children. The new law will help to promote a more balanced approach where both parents will have the opportunity to be involved in their children’s lives.

In conclusion, the passage of the proposed amendment to the Civil Code is a significant and welcome development that represents fundamental changes in the country’s family law system. It provides Japan’s parents with more control over how they choose to raise their children, and ensures that the well-being of the child remains paramount throughout the entire process of divorce


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