Examining the problem of joint custody in Japan: State familialism and family law reform

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Japan’s principle of granting sole child custody after divorce has been challenged by both the public and intellectuals. The country’s ratification of the Hague Child Abduction Convention in 2014 and the Ministry of Justice’s subsequent statement in 2019 regarding a possible inclusion of joint custody into the future family law are expected to lead to a move towards establishing shared parenting after divorce. Nonetheless, some activists and intellectuals in Japan have raised concerns that joint custody exposes the child and mother to the risk of violence by husband. Taking these debates into consideration, this article uses a social constructionist approach to analyse the records of the legislative committee and voices of activists to show the ways in which a challenge to the law and policy reform to shared parenting after divorce has been brought to a standstill in contemporary Japan.