On Sept. 8, the Civil Execution Act Subcommittee under the Legislative Council [of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)] drew up a draft interim plan for fleshing out the rules for the handover of children. Professionals involved in handovers have been required to date to make decisions on a case-by case basis, and they are having a mixed reaction to the draft plan in light of the impact it will have on children.
As representative of a mother who had obtained custody of her boy (then four years old) after divorcing his father, a Tokyo lawyer visited the home of the father with court officers this year. When the lawyer asked the father to hand over the boy, the father yelled, “What will become of the child’s rights?”
The father also told the boy, “You can go to your mother’s place if you really want to.” But the boy refused, saying, “I don’t want to go.” So the lawyer gave up on removing the boy that day.
But when the boy started to live with his mother two months later, he reportedly said, “Actually I have wanted Mom to come pick me up at nursery school.” The lawyer points out the difficulty of making decisions to remove children: “Children can’t tell how they really feel when they are surrounded by adults they don’t know.”
According to a court source, many professionals involved in handovers think that children should not be directly asked what they want because being asked if you want to be with your father or your mother has a negative effect on a child’s mental and physical health. For this reason, the professionals apparently have asked child psychologists to accompany them when they go to remove a child, persuaded the child’s other relatives [of the merits of the handover] prior to executing it, or tried to win the understanding of the parents.
Although 116 petitions for handovers were made nationwide last year, children were removed in only 32 cases. One judge says, “People involved in handovers are taking a case-by-case approach because there are no clear rules. I would like to see the voices of these people reflected in future discussions.”