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Why is there no joint custody in Japan?


Japan is known for its rich culture and traditions, but one aspect of Japanese law that has come under scrutiny is the lack of joint custody. While many countries have moved towards shared custody arrangements after divorce or separation, Japan has yet to adopt this approach. This article will explore the reasons behind Japan’s current custody laws and the effects they have on families.

History of Custody Laws in Japan

Japan’s current custody laws can be traced back to the Meiji period (1868-1912) when Japan began to modernize its legal system. At that time, children were considered property and were often awarded to the parent who could provide financially for them. After World War II, Japan adopted a civil code that placed more emphasis on the best interests of the child, but joint custody was still not a consideration.

Japanese Snack Box

Cultural Attitudes towards Divorce and Parenting

One reason why joint custody is not common in Japan is because of cultural attitudes towards divorce and parenting. In Japan, there is still a strong belief that children should be raised by their mothers, particularly in cases of divorce. Fathers are often seen as being less capable of providing emotional support and care for their children.

The Role of Family Courts

In Japan, family courts play a significant role in determining custody arrangements. However, these courts are often criticized for being biased towards mothers and for not considering the wishes of children. Additionally, family court proceedings can be lengthy and expensive, which can make it difficult for fathers to pursue joint custody.

Lack of Legal Framework for Joint Custody

Another reason why joint custody is not common in Japan is because there is no legal framework for it. While some parents may agree to shared custody arrangements outside of court, these agreements are not legally binding. This can make it difficult for fathers to enforce their rights if the mother decides to change her mind.

Child Abduction Concerns

Japan’s lack of joint custody laws has also been linked to concerns about child abduction. Because mothers are often given sole custody, there have been cases where Japanese mothers have taken their children out of the country without the father’s consent. This has led to international disputes and calls for Japan to adopt more stringent child abduction laws.

Fathers’ Rights Movements

In recent years, there has been a growing fathers’ rights movement in Japan that advocates for shared parenting after divorce or separation. These groups argue that fathers should have equal rights to their children and that joint custody would benefit both parents and children.

Recent Changes in Custody Laws

In 2011, Japan ratified the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction which requires countries to return children who have been wrongfully removed from their country of habitual residence. This has led to some changes in Japanese custody laws, including a greater focus on the best interests of the child and more consideration for parental involvement.

The Impact on Children

The lack of joint custody in Japan can have a significant impact on children. Children who are raised solely by one parent may miss out on important relationships with their other parent and extended family members. Additionally, children may feel torn between their loyalty to one parent and their desire to maintain a relationship with the other parent.

The Impact on Mothers

Motherhood is highly valued in Japanese society, but this can also put pressure on mothers who are expected to fulfill traditional gender roles as caregivers. Mothers who are awarded sole custody may struggle with balancing work and childcare responsibilities which can lead to stress and burnout.

The Impact on Fathers

Fathers who are denied joint custody may feel marginalized and excluded from their children’s lives. This can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety as well as strained relationships with their children.

Potential Solutions

There are several potential solutions that could address the issue of joint custody in Japan. These include legal reforms that would establish shared parenting as a viable option after divorce or separation, greater emphasis on mediation and dispute resolution outside of court, and increased awareness about the benefits of joint custody for both parents and children.


The lack of joint custody in Japan reflects deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about gender roles and parenting. However, it also has real-world consequences for families and children. As Japan continues to modernize its legal system, it will be important to consider reforms that prioritize the best interests of all parties involved.

What happens if you have more than 2 child in Japan?

A policy has been put in place which prohibits individuals with more than two children from obtaining government jobs, receiving government housing, or participating in local body elections. In this article, ET Magazine explores other similar restrictions that have been implemented by countries around the world, as well as the incentives provided to encourage people to have more children.

Do Japanese men pay child support?

In Japan, the parent who does not live with their dependent child is obligated to provide financial support to the other parent who lives with the child, regardless of their marital status. It is the responsibility of all parents to financially support their dependent children.

Can a woman divorce her husband in Japan?

In Japan, it is not possible for a spouse to unilaterally decide to get a divorce. Both parties must come to an agreement in order to divorce, as per Japanese law. This type of divorce, which does not involve court proceedings and is based on mutual agreement between the spouses, is known as “Kyogi-Rikon” in Japanese.

What rights do children have in Japan?

Japan approved of the convention in 1994, which is centered around the three principles of “provision,” “protection,” and “participation” for the benefit of children. The first principle, “provision,” pertains to ensuring that all children have access to a suitable standard of living, healthcare, and education.

Why does Japan have a child limit?

The government of Japan implements family policies aimed at boosting the country’s birthrate and addressing its declining population.

What happens if an American has a baby in Japan?

If a non-Japanese person gives birth in Japan but is not married to a Japanese citizen, their child will not be granted Japanese citizenship. However, if the child’s foreign mother reports the birth to their home country’s government office in Japan, the child may be able to obtain their mother’s citizenship.

One potential solution to the lack of joint custody in Japan is to increase education and awareness about the benefits of shared parenting. Many Japanese people may have never considered joint custody as an option and may not be familiar with how it works in other countries. By providing information and resources about joint custody, more parents may be willing to consider it as a viable option after divorce or separation.

Another solution is for the Japanese government to provide more support for single parents, particularly mothers. This could include financial assistance, access to affordable childcare, and flexible work arrangements. By providing more support for single parents, it may be easier for both parents to share parenting responsibilities after a separation.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to address the issue of child abduction in Japan. The lack of joint custody laws has made it easier for Japanese mothers to take their children out of the country without the father’s consent. This has led to international disputes and has created a barrier for fathers seeking joint custody. By establishing stronger child abduction laws and penalties, the Japanese government can help protect the rights of both parents and ensure that children are not taken away from their other parent without their consent.

In conclusion, the lack of joint custody in Japan is a complex issue that reflects cultural attitudes and legal frameworks. However, it also has real-world consequences for families and children. By implementing legal reforms, increasing awareness about shared parenting, providing support for single parents, and addressing child abduction concerns, Japan can move towards a more equitable and beneficial custody system for all parties involved.

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