Every Child

Has Two Parents


Child visitation is not a legal right under Japanese law


There is no provision for visitation rights under the Japanese Civil Code.  Article 766, paragraph 1 of the Japanese Civil Code, which is used to determine custody and visitation rights, reads as follows.  “In cases where the father and mother effect a divorce by agreement, the person who is to take custody of their children and other matters necessary for the custody shall be determined by their agreement, and if no agreement is reached or possible, such matters shall be determined by the Family Court.”  This gives no assurance of any visitation at all.

Even if it is specified by a Japanese court, it is incredibly limited, usually only a couple hours per month.  The responsibility to ensure regular visitation is a direct consequence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Japan in its entirety on May 22nd 1994.  Article nine of this treaty obligates Japan to "Respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal contact with both parents on a regular basis."

Solutions We Want To See

  1. Enact national laws requiring adequate visitation between a child and his or her non-custodial parent.  This should include visitation guidelines including but not limited to (i) minimum unsupervised visitation hours per week; (ii) weekly overnight stays; (iii) separate vacation time per year allowing overseas travel when one parent is not a Japanese citizen, subject to adequate protections to ensure return; and (iv) permissible conditions for denial of any of these guidelines.  These should be based on consultation of the many publicly available reference guidelines, such as these sample of child visitation guidelines.  Finally, the law should require that all judicial visitation determinations state specifically why the determination is “in the best interests” of the children it affects.

  2. 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.

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

  4. Sanction lawyers who persist in recommending that their clients deny child visitation with the other parent as a bargaining chip in a divorce or tolerate this sort of behavior in their clients.

  5. Unless there is strong and verified evidence indicating abuse has taken place, as noted in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, courts should approve mandatory unsupervised visitation throughout a divorce or other custody or visitation related case. Even with strong and verified evidence, visitation in a supervised environment should be considered.

Documented Cases

  1. TBD


  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)

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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