I often stop by an excellent website run by some young-Turk commentators on Japan called Mutantfrog. Full of insight and well-thought-out essays, one caught my eye a few weeks ago regarding what the Savoie Child Abduction Case has brought to the fore about divorce in Japan. It made me draw some harsh conclusions. Here they are:
NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED AND HAVE CHILDREN UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.
NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.
Because if people marry and have kids, one parent will lose them, meaning all legal ties, custody rights, and visitation rights, in the event of a divorce. This is not good for the children.
Japan has had marriage laws essentially unamended since 1898! (See Fuess, Divorce in Japan) Clearly this does not reflect a modern situation, and until this changes people should go Common-Law (also not an option in Japan), and make it clear to their representatives that Japan’s current legal situation is not family-friendly enough for them to tie the knot.
Some reforms necessary:
Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one parent or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).
Recognize Visitation Rights (menkai ken) for both parents during separation and after divorce.
Recognize Joint Custody (kyoudou kango ken) after divorce.
Enforce the Hague Convention on Child Abductions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Enforce overseas custody court decisions in Japanese courts.
Recognize “Irreconcilable Differences” (seikaku no fuitchi) as grounds for divorce.
Shorten legal separation (bekkyo) times from the current benchmark of around five years to one or two.
Stock the Mediation Councils (choutei) with real professionals and trained marriage counselors (not yuushikisha (“people with awareness”), who are essentially folks off the street with no standardized credentials).
Strengthen Family Court powers to enforce contempt of court for perjury (lying is frequent in divorce proceedings and currently essentially unpunishable), and force police to enforce court orders involving restraining orders and domestic violence (Japanese police are disinclined to get involved in family disputes).