Japananese government set to allow divorced couples to share custody of children

A government panel in Japan is proposing changes to child custody laws in response to a series of child abduction cases, suggesting that divorced couples should be allowed to share custody of their children, as reported by The Times.

This comes after several high-profile incidents where a parent abducted their children due to the sole-custody system in Japan. Japan’s current system is rooted in the tradition of children belonging to one parent and being registered as such.

However, it has resulted in cases where one parent secretly leaves with the children and subsequently serves divorce papers. In court, mothers are usually granted custody.

Opinions on the proposed changes are divided. Official groups mostly support the recommendations, but individual respondents are more likely to oppose them. Some argue that joint custody could perpetuate domestic violence or abuse that one spouse and their children are trying to escape.

The Justice Ministry’s legislative council family law sub-committee has presented a draft proposal suggesting that parents should decide whether they want joint or sole custody.

It also proposes making child support payments compulsory and strengthening laws to address non-payment, with disputes handled by family courts.

The adoption of these proposals by the government is uncertain. Last year, the panel suggested maintaining the current sole-custody system. Although Japan implemented the 1980 Hague Convention on cross-border child abduction in 2014, its courts do not recognize joint custody arrangements, as reported by The Times.

What’s more, in response to child abductions involving Australian parents, the Australian government urged Japan to change its civil code and adopt a joint-custody system. Penny Wong, the Australian foreign minister, called for Tokyo to allow children to “maintain meaningful relationships with both parents”.

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