Proposed Parenting Time Rule Changes in Japan Could Spell Good News for Single Fathers

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Custody and parenting time is handled differently in Japan than it is in the West, though new rules could change things.


Traditionally, when parents divorce, only one of them retains parenting rights. The parents can decide which takes guardianship or the courts will do it for them. Guardianship typically goes to the primary caregiver. In Japan? In almost all cases that is the mother.

Traditional Roles in Japan Create Disparities in Child Custody

There are few exceptions in a society where only half of mothers continue working after a child is born. Those who continue working are often forced to take the “mommy track.” Reduced hours at work allow mothers to be home to provide childcare. It also leaves women ineligible for leadership roles and promotions — and the raises that come with them.

Fathers don’t have the same opportunities to shift their responsibilities after their children are born. Those restrictions play heavily into custody and parenting issues after a divorce, where life as a single father is defined largely by the desires of a man’s former partner. Of course, this isn’t all that different from the default status in many countries, including the U.S., however in Japan it has been the actual law.

Parenting time is granted by the children’s guardian, when possible, or the courts when necessary. Unfortunately, court-ordered parenting time occurs only once or twice a month. Worse, there are few remedies available when either parent refuses to comply with a court order.

New Court Rules Seek to Enforce Court Ordered Parenting Agreements

On Friday, Aug. 31, Japan’s Justice Ministry drafted new legislation aimed at making child exchanges easier and more enforceable.

The proposed changes would give officers the right to enforce child exchanges when courts have granted parenting time. Currently, the police are unable to act when a parent refuses to hand off a child to a non-custodial parent or when a non-custodial parent fails to return a child after their parenting time has ended.

The new rules would also limit who can be present during child recovery. Only non-custodial parents are allowed to interact with enforcement officers. The policy puts additional obstacles between children and their fathers in the rare case that dad is granted guardianship.


Foreign fathers who share custody with Japanese mothers will be affected by the changes as well. The panel is seeking to revise and expand non-custodial parent protections afforded by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Why Fathers Should Support Equality at Home and at Work

Economic opportunities have a profound impact on men and women alike, but we continue to see why men and women need to be equals in the workplace. It’s especially evident in Japan, but it applies to the rest of the world as well. As long as traditional provider and caregiver roles are perpetuated, men will be at a disadvantage when it comes to parenting arrangements.

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