New Joint Custody in Japan Law Worries Child, DV Victims Advocates

Unseen Japan
8 min readFeb 26, 2024

In a major shift, Japan plans to introduce joint custody post-divorce. Critics worry domestic violence victims and kids may be left behind.

Picture: hellohello / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

By Francesca Annio

Every newlywed dreams of a lifelong, trouble-free marriage. But sometimes, divorce becomes the only path forward. In Japan, divorce is prevalent, whether due to personality clashes or more significant issues, and its repercussions can be profound for all involved. The complexity intensifies when children are part of the equation, demanding careful legal measures to prioritize their well-being during negotiations.

Historically, Japanese divorce proceedings involving children boiled down to a binary choice — either mom or dad. However, a major shift is on the horizon as the government considers joint custody in Japan as a viable solution in child custody cases. While appearing progressive in response to outdated legal norms, concerns linger about its adequacy in addressing households with unique circumstances, especially those impacted by domestic violence.

Joint custody in Japan: a revision years in the making

Picture: ilixe48 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

This past January, the Family Law Subcommittee submitted a comprehensive proposal for amending the Civil Code. This introduces a brand-new system for divorced couples — a choice between sole and joint custody. When agreements hit a wall, the family court takes charge, factoring in household dynamics. Crucially, the core principle is prioritizing children’s best interests, respecting their lifestyle amidst these significant changes.

Additionally, in a bid to tackle issues around unpaid child support, the draft incorporates provisions like asset seizure for delayed payments, a “statutory child-rearing support” with a mandated financial aid amount, and recognition of grandparents’ visitation rights. Despite opposition from 3 out of 21 committee members, the outline secured approval through a majority vote.

The current setup, detailed in Article 819 of the Civil Code, confines post-divorce child…