198th Diet, House of Representatives, Judicial Affairs Committee, #11

House of Representatives, Judicial Affairs Committee, #11 (April 17th, 2019)

Page 19

168 Atsushi Onose

 I would like to answer your question.

 If the parents are married, they have joint custody, and in principle, joint custody is the rule there.

 However, in the case of divorce, according to the current Civil Code, one of the parents must be designated as the custodian in the agreement, and in the case of a judicial divorce, the court will designate one of the parents as the custodian.

 However, even so, as I mentioned earlier, you are still a parent, so for example, you are obligated to pay child support, and you are allowed to have visitation with your children.

#169 Seiichi Kushida  My question was, “If I pay money, will it be child support? Please answer that question.

170 Atsushi Onose

 I will answer your question.

 As I mentioned earlier, there is also visitation exchange, so I think that parents are expected to be involved in such activities as well.

171 Seiichi Kushida

 In the case of visitation, for example, if the other party unilaterally shows photos of the child, this is called indirect visitation. This is called “indirect visitation.” It means that the parents can see the child’s growth, but I don’t think they are taking care of the child.

 It is child support because they are paying for it, is that right?

172 Atsushi Onose

 I would like to answer your question.

 I believe that the method of visitation exchange should be judged from the perspective of what kind of method is in the best interest of the child.

 Therefore, we believe that it is desirable for visitation exchange to be carried out appropriately according to the specific circumstances of each case.

#173 Seiichi Kushida  So, let me give you an individual concrete example, a common example: once a month, you can see your child for two hours, but other than that, you have to pay child support.

174 Atsushi Onose

 Let me answer this question.

 What level of child support is desirable for the interests of the child is determined on a case-by-case basis.

 Therefore, whether or not the form as pointed out by the Commissioner is desirable and appropriate for the upbringing of a child is a matter to be judged in each individual case based on the age of the child and the living conditions of each person.

#175 Seiichi Kushida  This is not the case. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in 1994, right? If so, Article 18 states that the child should be raised jointly, doesn’t it? Japan has ratified the Convention on the Joint Custody and Support of Children, not individual cases, right? Isn’t that right?

176 Atsushi Onose

 I would like to answer your question.

 I understand that Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which you have just pointed out, stipulates that every effort shall be made to ensure awareness of the principle that parents have joint responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children, and there is no explicit provision for the introduction of a system of joint custody by parents after divorce.

 As I mentioned earlier, the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay child support, so I believe that measures are being taken to ensure that this principle is recognized in the provisions of the Convention.

 On top of that, the Convention does not provide for any specific standards or measures regarding visitation exchange. As I mentioned earlier, we believe that the fact that visitation exchange is allowed can be the basis for the appropriate response to Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but we believe that the appropriate frequency of visitation exchange should be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, how often visitation is appropriate should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

#177 Seiichi Kushida  I don’t mind if you interpret it in your own way, but in February of this year, you received a recommendation from the United Nations that you have not kept your promise.

 If I say it again and again, it may hurt the Minister’s ears, but even without my saying it, other countries have been airing special features on Japan, saying that Japan is a country that does not abide by the Convention and does not protect the rights of children. People all over the world watch the TV program and think that Japan is a country that does not abide by treaties and does not protect children’s rights, and other countries think what a country Japan is. So, I have been talking about changing this.

 However, I received a very positive response from the Ministry of Justice when I gave my notice yesterday, but I was wondering if you could tell me what the Ministry of Justice is doing now with regard to what other countries are doing.

178 Atsushi Onose

 I would like to answer your question.

 The Ministry of Justice has been conducting research on foreign laws regarding the joint custody system after divorce, for example, in fiscal year 2014, we commissioned a research study on the custody system after divorce in various countries.

 For example, in fiscal year 2006, we commissioned a study on the custody system after divorce in various countries. In addition to this, the Prime Minister responded that the Ministry of Justice, which has jurisdiction over the Civil Code, will continue to study the issue. Based on the Prime Minister’s instructions, on March 29th of this year, we requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct a study on the custody system after divorce and how children should be raised.

 The survey requested this time covers a wide range of issues, covering 24 countries. In addition to the survey on the legal system, it also includes, for example, information on which cases are difficult for judges to decide among the cases in which parents have conflicting opinions on the joint exercise of parental rights and need to be adjusted by the courts. In addition, we will also conduct research on the actual operation of the system, such as how long it takes on average for the court to make adjustments between the parents.

 With regard to the introduction of a joint custody system after divorce, there have been some suggestions that there may be a risk of not being able to reach the necessary agreements for the care and upbringing of children in a timely manner due to emotional conflicts between the parents.

179 Seiichi Kushida

 I had thought that Minister Yamashita was a man who could do it. Although I have been quite rude to him, I was really touched to hear such a positive answer.

 One reason for not allowing joint custody is that it is impossible to discuss due to high conflict, and another reason is the problem of domestic violence. I am sure that there are such problems.

 However, there are couples who do not have such problems. For example, 90% of divorces in Japan are negotiated. I don’t think we should deprive such couples of the option of divorcing each other, but raising their children together, even though they have to divide their time. I think that we should not deprive such couples of the option of raising their children together. In the U.S., we have a system that allows people to choose between sole custody and joint custody.

 Therefore, in Japan, I don’t think there is any need to decide on one person when there are two couples who have made up their minds to raise their child together.

 The Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society is based on the idea that both parties should take care of the child, and that women should be able to advance in society by doing so. Therefore, I think it is only natural for the Cabinet Office to include or exclude de facto marriage. Regardless of whether it is a legal marriage or not, I believe that it is natural for parents and children to raise their children.

 I will continue to ask more detailed questions, but I would like to say that we are both positive, and since other political parties are also taking up this issue, we should work together to protect the rights of children.

 Thank you very much for your time.

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