The Justice Ministry is studying how other countries handle joint parental custody after divorce, with a view to examining the appropriateness of introducing similar legal arrangements in this country, ministry sources said.
The fact-finding survey, to be conducted with the cooperation of the Foreign Ministry until around the end of July, covers 24 foreign countries.
The Civil Code states that married couples have joint custody of their children. However, if a couple gets divorced, either the mother or father gets custody of their child or children, becoming the sole guardian responsible for looking after, educating and managing the assets of his or her offspring.
Divorced parents who lose custody are rarely involved in the raising of their children.
In many advanced nations, fathers and mothers maintain joint custody even after divorce, based on the assumption that both parents should have responsibility for their children. The advantage of joint custody being that the viewpoints of both fathers and mothers can be utilized in their children’s upbringing.
However, there are cases in which joint custody does not necessarily benefit children. For example, divorced parents who cannot decide which school their children should attend, according to a senior Justice Ministry official.
With this in mind, the government finds it “necessary to cautiously examine” the issue of introducing joint custody, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The latest study comes after the ministry conducted research on the custody systems used in nine countries in 2014, including the United States and nations in Europe. The target has been expanded in the new survey to include countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America.
The ministry is also set to study methods used by justice courts to resolve conflicts between divorced parents when joint custody has been granted. Surveyed nations include those in which sole custody is granted after divorce.
After examining the results of the study, the ministry will decide whether to set up a panel of experts tasked with discussing the possible introduction of joint custody after divorce.
In July last year, then Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said revisions to the current system of sole parental custody after divorce were being considered, hinting that a system may be introduced in which divorced couples will be able to opt for either sole or joint custody.