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Joint custody? 共同親権?

The Japanese government has been considering changes to its family law over the last few years. It set up a family law review subcommittee in March 2021 to look into potential changes and they accepted submissions from the public two years later.

 The committee just completed their final meeting in January this year. Last week, on the 8th of March, their proposal for changes was approved by the legal affairs committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). It will be submitted for debate in the House of Representatives this week and then presented to Justice Minister Koizumi.

The draft amendment is low on details, but will allow for parents who agree to choose joint custody (called parental responsibility in Australia) after divorce.This is a change from the current system that only allows sole custody post divorce, however it does not go far enough to result in joint custody as the norm, as in other countries. 

When parents don’t agree, it will be up to a family court judge to make the determination about joint custody. Based on my own personal experiences with the family court, and the experiences of other parents I’ve spoken to, I don’t hold much hope that joint custody will be the outcome for most cases. The family court is old fashioned, conservative and looking for easy solutions.





It has been reported that under the new laws, parents that have lost custody under the current system will have the opportunity to apply for a change of custody, requesting joint custody instead. Once again, since the family court would be involved, it’s highly unlikely that this will lead to significant numbers of parents regaining custody.

Many of the issues surrounding the current system such as false family violence (DV) claims and parental child abduction don’t appear to have been dealt with adequately by the proposal. Instead, the vague phrase that parents should respect each other’s jinkaku, or personality, after divorce is open to interpretation. 

In my opinion, the proposed amendment is an expertly crafted piece designed to quell international criticism, whilst at the same time keeping as many of the stakeholders as happy as possible.




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