Every Child

Has Two Parents



Japan has two types of

adoption: regular (養子縁組 : youshi engumi) and special adoption (特別養子縁組 : tokubetu youshi engumi).

If the child is a descendant of one of the adoptive parents, the City Office may register a regular adoption without the Family Court's consent.  If the child is not a lineal descendant of the adoptive parents, the Family Court must adjudicate the adoption before the City Office will legally register the adoption decree. A regular adoption does not necessarily sever the child's ties, rights, and privileges with regard to the birth parent(s) and any prior adoptive parent(s). For example, Japanese inheritance law recognizes that a child adopted in a regular adoption may still have inheritance rights from the biological parents. In addition, regular adoptions can be dissolved.

In 1988, Japan introduced the special adoption to make Japanese adoptions more compatible with international adoptions and to give more protection to adopted children under six years of age.  A special adoption severs the child's ties, rights, and privileges with regard to the birth parent(s) and any prior adoptive parent(s). 1) The child must be under the age of six at the time the adoption petition is filed OR under the age of eight and must have been placed under the continuous care and custody of the prospective adoptive parents since before the child's sixth birthday.  All persons with legal custody of the child, including the natural and adoptive parents, must consent to the adoption, but consent by persons without legal custody is not necessary.  More details on both types of adoptions are described in the essay "Types of Adoption in Japan."

Adoptions usually requires the involvement of the family court, except in cases where a child is adopted by a grandparents or spouse of a parent.  (Civil Code Article 798.) “Special Adoptions” involving children under the age of six (or eight, in certain cases) require the involvement of the family court and the consent of a natural parent of the child being adopted, unless the natural parent is “unable to declare [his or her] intention or where there is cruel treatment, malicious desertion by the father and mother, or any other cause seriously harmful to the benefits of a person to be adopted."  (Civil Code,  Article 817-5, 6)  Since a non-custodial parent does not even have a right to know where his or her child is, he or she would be unable to express their intentions. 

When permission is required, a parent hiding from or trying to cut off the other parent may get around this requirement by claiming that parent has deserted them.  There is no way for a government office or a court to find out otherwise, since a non-custodial natural parent has no way to register their contact information for their child.  This is especially a problem with foreign parents since there are no koseki and jyuminhyou records for that foreign parent that can be traced.  Currently, according to Japanese law, an objecting parent only has 6 months to find and correct problems, regardless of whether they were even notified in the first place.  But unless the other parent has legal or physical custody, they do not even have the right to object.  On the other hand, a parent with either legal or physical custody, can submit a form to the government requesting that any adoptions be blocked. 

In either case, there is no requirement to notify a non-custodial natural parent that an adoption has occurred.  Thus, the adoption process is easily abused by a parent trying to cut a child off from another parent.  Once an adoption occurs, further adoptions and even simple custody changes become much easier since the other natural parent is no longer legally involved at all.  Likewise, if the custodial parent dies or decides they no longer want to take care of the child, relatives are often given custody without the permission, knowledge or notification of the other natural parent. 

Adoption of your child by someone else is scary for a number of reasons, and can have serious impact. (1) it is more likely to result in the child's name being changed, making it easier to hide the child (2) it is often done in conjunction with remarriage by the custodial parent; basically the child is no longer yours in any way shape or form; (3) in many cases it will make visitation that much more difficult to ask and get for since "the other parent" may now have an interest in cutting off contact with the non-custodial natural parent so that the child will treat the adopting person more like a real parent.

In summary, legal safeguards are inadequate to ensure the best interests of the child and the rights of both natural parents.  The rights of both natural parents and children guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child can be quickly violated by adoption and changes of custody.


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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