Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Japan: A Divorced Parent’s Child Visitation Rights Can Be Enforced

(Apr. 12, 2013) On March 28, 2013, Japan’s Supreme Court affirmed the adjudication of a High Court that had imposed an administrative fine every time the divorced mother in a parental visitation rights case refused to cooperate with her child’s father on his visitation with the child.. (Heise 24(kyo)48, Mar. 28, 2013, available from the online database Courts in Japan for three months.)

It is not unusual in Japan that a divorced parent cannot or does not see his or her child after divorce. However, recently, more divorced parents have tried to keep in contact with children who live separately from them. The number of visitation rights cases that were adjudicated for the year 1998 was only 293; by 2009, the number had reached 1,048. The number of visitation rights cases that were mediated also increased from 1,696 in 1998 to 6,924 in 2009. (Masayuki Tanamura, Report on Systems Enabling Visitation Between Parents and Children [in Japanese], at 85, Ministry of Justice website 2011).)

A couple of decades ago, the enforceability of visitation rights was argued in Japanese legal circules. Nowadays, the enforceability is recognized, but case law had not been clear on when the visitation rights are to be enforced. (Hiroshi Nonoyama, Permissibility and Conditions of Indirect Enforcement of Child Visitation Rights [in Japanese] (2006), Oike Law Office website.)

The recent Supreme Court decision has made it clear that, when the time and dates, the length of the visitation period, and the method of exchanging a child between parents are specified in an arbitration or adjudication, the court can impose administrative fines on a parent who does not let a child see the other parent. The Court decided two more visitation cases at the same time, but declined to impose administrative fines on the parents preventing visitation, because in these cases, the terms of visitation had not been specific enough. (Heisei24(kyo)47 and Heisei 24(kyo)41, Mar. 28, 2013, available from the online database Courts in Japan for three months.)