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Tokyo court rules granting custody to one parent after divorce constitutional

The building that houses institutions including the Tokyo District Court is seen in this file photo taken in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 29, 2018. (Mainichi/Naotaka Ito)

TOKYO -- The Tokyo District Court on Feb. 17 rejected a man's suit against the national government for damages, in which he asserted that provisions in the Civil Code that allow parental authority to be awarded to one parent after divorce are unconstitutional.

    In its ruling, the court headed by presiding judge Shin Matsumoto denied the man's request for 1.65 million yen (about $15,583) in damages. In his judgment Matsumoto said, "Parental authority is a right that exists for the sake of children, and it is exceedingly difficult to interpret this as among the human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Japan. The regulations are rational."

    The man's legal team argued in the trial, "The regulations are in opposition to the respect for individuals laid down in the Constitution, and they handle issues between fathers and mothers in a discriminatory fashion."

    Matsumoto acknowledged that there are rewards from parenting in that parents personally develop and are enriched through the raising of children. But, he also pointed out that a parent who loses custody in a divorce does not stop being a parent, and that they don't lose those rewards through parental authority being held by a single party.

    The judge also said that the gist of the regulations regarding child custody and education is in part about making decisions in a timely and appropriate fashion to facilitate them, and that they have reasonable legislative purpose. He said that how the relationship between parents and children that forms the basis of the family system should be handled and whether to acknowledge joint custody following divorce are points to be left to the discretion of the National Diet.

    Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa earlier this month inquired about a review to the legal system relating to the way in which children are raised following parents' divorce at the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice, and it is intended there will be discussion on joint parental authority.

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiro Toyama, City News Department)

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