Every Child

Has Two Parents


Child Custody

There are numerous family law problems related to child custody in Japan.


The Issues

Click on the topic to get more information as well as the solution we would like to see to each issue.

  1. 1.Joint custody is illegal in Japan

  2. 2.Japanese courts do not recognize foreign custody orders

  3. 3.Japanese court orders for custody are not enforceable

  4. 4.Natural parents do not have priority in future custody changes

  5. 5.Discrimination against non-Japanese in granting child custody

  6. 6.Fathers of Children Born Out of Wedlock Have No Custodial Rights

  7. 7.No system to register a foreign parent's contact information

  8. 8.Mothers granted child custody in 80% of court decisions

  9. 9.Child abuse and other psychological factors are ignored in family court decisions

  10. 10.Adoptions are permitted without approval of the non-custodial natural parent and without approval of a court

  11. 11.Government officials refuse to help a parent find a child being hidden by the other parent

Solutions We Want To See

  1. Combine visitation proceedings with custody proceedings.  Require it to be standard practice that preliminary visitation rights are awarded immediately upon commencement and enforced throughout.  Absent special circumstances, a child should not go without seeing a parent for more than two weeks while proceedings are under way.  Whether the parties respect such rights must be a key factor in the ultimate custody award.

  2. Completely separate custody and visitation determinations from divorce, to prevent access to children from being used as a bargaining tool in divorce.

  3. Modify Articles 818 and 819 of the Civil Code to permit joint custody of any child, not only children who parents are married. Enact a national law guaranteeing this right to joint custody after divorce or birth out of wedlock, except in cases of documented threat to the safety and welfare of the child as determined by independent qualified experts.

  4. Require that all judicial custody determinations state specifically why the determination is “in the best interests” of the children it affects.

  5. Maintain a national registration database of contact information for foreign parents of Japanese children in order to facilitate notification and granting of permission for adoptions and custodial changes.  Require courts to consult this database before allowing any legal change of status of a child, and increase the maximum amount of time before a status change becomes permanent from the current 6 months to 3 years, in the case of a parent being un-contactable.

  6. Require by that that contact information for a foreign parent be entered into either a child’s Family Registration or into an alternate national registration database so that a Japanese child is always able to locate a foreign parent who has registered.

  7. Enact national laws clearly establishing the non-preference for a parent of a particular gender or national origin, to counter the Japanese judiciary’s current obvious yet unstated preference for female parents in custody decisions.]

  8. Gather and make public a breakdown of statistics with regard to custody awards based on citizenship of the parents involved, as Japan does for marriages, divorces, births and deaths.

  9. Reform Article 819 of the Civil Code of Japan, to give the father and mother shared custody of an acknowledged child born out of wedlock, rather than just the mother, as is the case under current law.  In consideration of the similarities to post-divorce situations, existing articles of the Civil Code should apply to such cases.

  10. Amend immigration laws so that a non-married and non-custodial parent of a Japanese child is eligible for a long-term working visa or permanent residency without the letter of guarantee currently required for the granting of such visas.

  11. Grant permanent residency to a non-married and non-custodial parent of a Japanese child under the same accelerated time frame and favorable conditions applicable to a spouse of a Japanese citizen.


  1. More information on  Joint Custody and Japan

  2. Two Type of Rights in Japan: Parental Rights and Custody Rights

  3. How to break your child off of the Japanese parent's Family Registration (koseki) and onto his or her own

  4. Child Custody Information from Japanese Government Reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child


  1. Child custody in Japan isn't based on rules; San Francisco Chronicle; August 27, 2006.  A law professor discusses why institutional reasons rather than cultural ones are to blame for bad family law in Japan.  Much of Japan's family law is based on the need to cover up the fact that Japanese courts are powerless to enforce their own decisions.  It contains an example of culturally biased opinions regarding visitation made by a prominent "family expert" in a book on visitation, as well as descriptions of apparently mainstream anti-visitation opinions expressed by family court mediators.  Both of these, until now, were only available in Japanese. (cached copy)

  2. Parents' rights a demographic issue; The Japan Times; July 18, 2006; Law professor from Doshisha University in Kyoto postulates that prejudices against men in the family law and courts might be effecting Japan's plummeting birth rate. (cached copy)

  3. Parents, experts urge Japan to sign child custody treaty; Mainichi Daily News; December 4, 2005.  An article based on the Seminar on the Hague Convention and International Child Abduction at Canadian Embassy. (cached copy)

  4. Marbury v. Madison and The Matrix: What Child Custody and Visitation in Japan Show us about the Japanese Court System - Written by a western lawyer who is fluent in Japanese, this is the best overview available of the problems with Japanese family law.  Published on the website of the Australian Network for Japanese Law.

  5. Parents in International Custody Battles Fear Impact; Washington Post; February 3, 2003.  Information on various worldwide parental abduction cases in the light of the Elian Gonzalez incident in the US. Included is Walter Benda's well known Japan case.   (cached copy)

  6. Foreign Spouses In Japan Seek Easier Child Custody Laws; www.oneworld.net web site; March 22, 1998.   Another bitter description of custody laws in Japan. (cached copy)


  1. TBD

Please bear with us while we reconstruct CRN Japan.  You may find links that are broken and data that is not in it’s place.  Please understand we are working to fix all issues.  Thank you for your understanding.

The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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