A cross-party group of lawmakers has drawn up a bill to promote parent-child interactions after divorces and marital separations, encouraging parents to maintain ties with their children mainly via visitations.
According to the bill, parents who are getting divorced would be required to put into writing the frequency of the visitations and how to share the child-rearing costs.
The lawmakers, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party, aim to submit the bill to the Diet on June 18.
Among the bill’s basic principles are one that says parents must try to maintain sustainable relationships with their children after divorce. They also call for efforts to secure opportunities for the children to express their will and to ensure that their growth and personality development will not be impeded.
In addition to urging parents to maintain favorable relationships with their children through periodic visitations and other exchanges in a stable manner, the bill calls on the state to carry out related educational activities and provide the necessary support. It also urges local governments to make similar efforts.
On the other hand, the bill underscores the need for special consideration in cases of child abuse and domestic violence, including by banning visitations and exchanges.
It also asks the state to consider introducing a joint parental custody system under which the custody of a child is awarded to both parents after divorce.
The Legislative Council, which advises the justice minister, is discussing a potential amendment to the civil execution law to clarify rules for the handover of a child between divorced parents.
In Japan, where custody of a child must be decided between a father and a mother when they are divorced, conflicts often emerge over the issue of visitations, especially when parents are unable to communicate calmly, raising the need for the swift involvement of a third party.
Experts have called for setting up places to offer consultation services that can be easily accessed by parents, as there is a limit to what they can do by themselves to seek settlements.
Masayuki Tanamura, a professor at Waseda University, said many Western countries have support systems that enable parents to have consultations over how to raise their children after they get divorced.
“In Japan, the level of support before divorce is inefficient, leading to escalation of conflicts between husband and wife and resulting in lawsuits,” Tanamura said.
“There should be many cases that can be resolved beforehand, so the state and local governments need to enhance their support.”
According to government’s population survey, the number of divorces in Japan reached 226,215 in 2015, up from 222,107 cases the previous year, indicating that divorces are no longer uncommon in the country.
In line with the increase in divorces, the number of mediation and judgments at family courts has been on the rise over conflicts between a parent seeking access to his or her child and another parent rejecting the demand.