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Japan gov't to study whether to introduce joint custody of children

This Dec. 27, 2018 file photo shows the building which houses the Justice Ministry in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Justice Ministry said Friday it will launch a study by the end of this year on whether to introduce a system of joint custody in Japan, where child custody is awarded to one parent after divorce.

    A new panel at the ministry will resolve major issues regarding the system to allow both father and mother to share custody, as views in favor of such a system have been growing. But there has also been firm opposition to the change in Japan, with some people concerned that it could adversely affect children if their parents are at odds.

    "I am aware that there are various opinions about joint custody from those concerned and I would like the panel to discuss the issue carefully," Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai told a press conference.

    The panel will be comprised of scholars as well as officials of the Justice Ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

    The panel plans to spend more than a year compiling a report as it will take up not only the issue of parental custody but also various subjects related to nurturing children after their parents are divorced.

    If the justice minister deems a law revision is necessary, he will ask the Legislative Council to examine the matter.

    A system of joint custody is adopted in the United States as well as many countries in Europe, based on the view that it is beneficial for children if both father and mother are responsible for nurturing them even after they are divorced.

    But some are concerned that such a system would have a negative influence on children if their parents cannot reach an accord on rearing them or they cannot hold discussions because of domestic violence.

    As those who are in favor of joint custody argue that a parent without custody cannot see children often enough, the panel will explore ways to promote exchanges between them, the ministry said.

    The panel will also study whether to require parents to craft an upbringing program when they get divorced and how joint custody will be exercised if it is actually introduced.

    Other issues to be discussed include the distribution of property after divorce, it said.

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