Landmark Shift: Japan Allows Joint Child Custody After Divorce

Tokyo, Japan – In a historic move, Japan’s parliament has passed a bill revising the Civil Code to allow divorced parents the option of joint child custody. This marks a significant change for a nation where sole custody, typically awarded to the mother, has been the norm for nearly eight decades.

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The new law, taking effect by 2026, empowers divorcing couples to choose either joint or sole custody arrangements. It prioritises cooperation between parents to ensure the well-being of their children. However, the law also includes safeguards. In cases of domestic violence or abuse, sole custody will be granted to the non-abusive parent. Additionally, if parents cannot reach an agreement, a family court will intervene and determine the custody arrangement.

“This revision brings Japan in line with many other countries and reflects the evolving nature of families,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice. “It prioritises the best interests of the child by allowing for continued involvement of both parents in their upbringing.”

The legislation has been met with mixed reactions. Supporters, including advocates for fathers’ rights, view it as a long-overdue step towards fairer and more flexible custody arrangements. Critics, however, express concerns about the potential for conflict between parents and the complexities of joint decision-making.

The impact of this law is expected to be significant. It has the potential to reshape child custody battles in Japan, encouraging more collaborative approaches between divorced parents and ensuring children maintain strong relationships with both mother and father.

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