The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a bill revising the enforcement of civil law to enable the handover of a child to a parent who is awarded custody, even if the other parent refuses to abide by a court order to transfer guardianship.
Currently, the law has no clear stipulation on such handovers, leaving court officials to rely on a clause related to asset seizure to enforce child custody orders. The current system has drawn criticism due to the fact it treats children as property.
Legislation implementing the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty providing a framework allowing the return of a child internationally abducted by a parent, will similarly be revised.
At present, legislation requires a parent living with a child to be present when the child is handed over to the other parent, but the proposed revision will allow a transfer without both parents being there.
The convention, to which Japan acceded in 2014, sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return of children under 16 to their country of habitual residence when they are taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.
The bill to modify the Civil Execution Law also includes revisions to allow courts to obtain debtors’ financial information and bar registered crime syndicate members from acquiring foreclosed real estate properties in public auctions.
The amendments are aimed at helping authorities seize money and properties from parents who fail to meet their court-ordered child support obligations and from people who do not pay compensation to crime victims.
The revised execution law will make it easier for courts to require financial and public institutions to provide information on debtors, including data related to their savings and places of employment.
Japan maintains a system of sole custody and, in a large majority of cases, when a dispute reaches court mothers are awarded custody after divorce. It is not unusual for children in Japan to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up.