On child support, visitation rights, and child abduction in Japan
The child’s welfare is the most important factor considered when determining child support in Japan and visitation rights in child custody disputes. Even after the parents divorce and child custody goes to one parent as Japan does not have joint custody, they are still both held responsible for the child’s well being. The expense to bring up the child should be shared by both parents, so often the parent without custody will be required to pay child support (yōikuhi).
In Japan, child support is decided by mutual agreement and sometimes with the assistance of mediators, or divorce lawyers. When an agreement cannot be reached, the parent with custody of the child can go to the family court to file a petition for conciliation (chōtei) in the case where the other parent is unwilling to pay child support. This is a demand for child support payment and the two parties will be required to reach an agreement on the amount of child support at the conciliation.
If an agreement still cannot be reached, a trial will commence at the divorce court, the Japanese family court, whereby a judge will take into consideration the situation of both parents and make a decision on the child support payment.
Child support is usually calculated using the following:
Basic income of the parent × (living cost of the child – total cost of living expenses of the parent and child) × (basic income of the parent ÷ total basic income of the parents)
According to the Results of National Survey on Single Parent Households, etc. published by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2016, the average monthly amount of child support in Japan is approx. 43,000 yen for fatherless households and approx. 32,000 yen for motherless households per month.
In Japan there are no statutory guidelines on child visitation rights which a court must follow, stating that frequent and continuing contact between a child and his or her parents after they separate is presumed to be in a child’s best interests. Thus, Japanese family courts have a great deal of leeway in deciding visitation rights for a non-custodial parent. Some examples of decisions made by the family court include requiring the custodial parent only to send pictures of the child annually rather than allow visitation, or awarding only a few hours of visitation annually.
When deciding whether or not to grant visitation rights in Japan, the child’s emotional/physical state, age, opinions and feelings are taken into account. Also taken into consideration is whether the parent pursuing visitation rights is violent, wants to interfere with the child’s education, or, in the case that the parent remarries, what the situation would be like with consideration for the new spouse/partner of the parent.
Japan is a signatory nation to the Hague Convention. Despite this, and in contrast to the law in many English-speaking countries, a parent “abducting” their own child is not a crime in Japan unless the incident causes public disruption such as causing a disturbance when grabbing your child from the street.
For this reason, Japan has earned a reputation as a haven for parents who abduct and take their own children out of their home country to live in Japan. This is often seen when one parent is foreign and one Japanese, whereby a divorce will take place and the Japanese parent will return to Japan with the child.
Cases have occurred in which a child born to Japanese and foreign parents is abducted by the Japanese parent from the foreign country, being entirely raised in Japan instead.
Consult an English-speaking lawyer
Because cases involving child support and child custody in Japan vary significantly from situation to situation, and Japanese law could differ greatly from that which you are familiar with in your home country, it’s imperative that you call an English-speaking lawyer to advise you. In cases involving children with one Japanese parent and one foreign parent this is especially true, as Japanese courts can favor the Japanese parent in such cases.
Call 03-6868-8647 for a consultation, or contact us through our online contact form.
This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice. For advice from a lawyer, please call the number listed above.