Every Child

Has Two Parents


Mothers granted child custody in 80% of court decisions


Although the Japanese constitution denies gender discrimination, and there are various other gender specific laws and regulations against discrimination, there is clear statistical evidence that custody is awarded to mothers in approximately 80% the cases of disputed custody.  Yet there are no laws or regulations explicitly stating such a preference.  In a country where the non-custodial parent is often completely cut off from their child, especially after a custodial dispute, having such discrimination against fathers is particularly damaging to the natural parent child relationship.

Where there is a custody conflict, Japanese courts tend to hold the following criteria: (1) young children need their mother more than anything and (2) children should be raised by the parent with whom they can live with the fewest problems. In Japan, mothers get custody of the children in the vast majority of custody cases.

It is true to say that, except in cases of mutual agreement divorce (kyogi rikon), that if there was any disagreement about who was to have custody (shinken) of any children, then the courts would almost invariably award custody to the mother unless there was any particular over-riding reasons not to do so (drug addiction, child abuse, imprisonment, etc). This is true regardless of whether the father is Japanese or not.

If a non-Japanese citizen is able to gain custody of her/his child with Japanese citizenship, perhaps in the rare case that the other parent doesn't want it, it is usually possible to get a visa to remain in Japan. According to a government directive issued on 30 July 1996, with virtually no exceptions, foreigners who have custody of their legitimate children of Japanese nationality and who are actually raising those children in Japan, may receive permanent resident status.

Article 24 of the Constitution prescribes essential equality of the sexes with regard to matters pertaining to the family.  Yet Japanese laws concerning children do not reflect this equality of sexes for parental care.  Statistics show that in mediation of custody disputes among parents in Japan, custody is granted to the mother greater approximately 80% of the time.  This is certainly far from equality.

Solutions We Want To See

  1. TBD


  1. 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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