Connect with us

Economy & Tech

EDITORIAL | Pass the Joint Custody Law, We Owe It to Our Children

The proposed joint custody, with mandated child support and visitation, recognizes that both sides have parental rights and responsibilities in child-rearing.



The January 30th meeting of the Family Law Division of the Ministry of Justice Legislative Council adopted a proposal that in principle allows joint custody in a divorce, with prior agreement of the couple. (©Kyodo)

The Family Law Division of the justice ministry's Legislative Council has delivered a comprehensive draft proposal based on the principle of "joint custody." It had been considering a revamp of post-divorce child-rearing. Under the proposal, both parents would enjoy parental rights in the event of a divorce, subject to mutual consent.  

Under the current "sole custody" system, only one of the divorced parents enjoys parental rights. Nonetheless, even after a couple separates, the reality is that each person remains a father or mother of their children. It would be appropriate, therefore, to recognize that the responsibility and rights of child-rearing belong to both parents. 

Next, the proposal is reported to the Minister of Justice. Thereafter, the government plans to submit a reform bill to the regular session of the Diet. Hopefully, it will be quickly passed.

population decline

Debate Over 'Joint Parental Custody'

The biggest point of debate has been the question of "joint parental custody." Those opposed to its adoption have expressed concerns that if the principle of joint parental custody is accepted, disagreements between parents regarding the path a child is to take may not be settled, or mothers and their children who have been the victims of domestic violence may be put at risk. 

Changes made from a desire to promote healthy growth of children should not be allowed to put children at risk. 

If the parents cannot agree on the exercise of parental rights, a family court should decide. After taking into consideration whether violence or negative influences are factors, the court may award one parent sole custody. Appropriately, family courts should make decisions based on the best interests of the children. 

Children at the Kobe children's Book Forest in Kobe, Hyogo (© Sankei)

Better Rules for Child Support

The courts should also become more involved with arrangements for child support. Currently, less than half of single-mother households in Japan are supposed to receive child support payments after divorce. Even when such arrangements are in place, some of these households find it difficult to continue receiving support payments.

The proposed guidelines would create a "lien" system for child support payments. This would make it possible for the parent raising the children to secure child support payments. They would receive preferential treatment through garnishment of wages or other financial resources of the parent who must pay. 

Furthermore, the proposal would establish a system of "statutory support." This would require a minimum amount to be paid when the divorcing parents have not made arrangements for child support.


Both parents have an obligation to support their children, regardless of whether they enjoy parental rights. Hopefully, the new system will ensure that child support is in fact received. The goal is to prevent children from being forced to live in poverty after a divorce. 

Fumio Kishida speaks at the prime minister's press conference on children and families on June 13, 2023. (© Sankei)

Visitation Rights

Visitation after a divorce is also very important. At present only 30% of households have prior arrangements for visitation following a divorce. 

Under the proposal, a new system would be established. It would allow trial visits between parents and children while the family court judgment process is ongoing. 

The new system creates such opportunities early on through approaches like involving a third party. For everyone, the aim is to facilitate smooth interactions following the divorce. After all, it is the responsibility of the adults around them to create an environment that will ensure that a child can grow up strong and confident in the love of his or her mother and father. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

Our Partners