Japan to change presumed paternity rule in Civil Code

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A Japanese government panel Tuesday drafted an outline of legislation to change a century-old Civil Code rule on presumed paternity of a child born after the mother’s marriage or remarriage.

A subcommittee of the Legislative Council, which advises the justice minister, drew up the draft outline on a planned revision to the Civil Code. The outline will be submitted to Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa after formal approval at a general meeting of the council in mid-February.

The basic principle under the Civil Code is that a man who was in a marital relationship with a woman when she got pregnant is presumed to be the father of the child.

Under this principle, a current clause stipulates that the father of a child born within 300 days of the mother’s divorce is presumed to be her former spouse.

Meanwhile, another clause says that the father of a child born after 200 days of the mother’s marriage or remarriage is presumed to be her current husband.

The draft envisions a change to this rule, saying that the current husband should be presumed to be the father of a child born even within 200 days of marriage or remarriage.

While the 300-day principle will be maintained, a new clause will be added to exceptionally presume a child born within 300 days of divorce to be that of the current husband if the mother was remarried to him at the time of the birth.

The current presumed paternity rule was established in the Meiji era over a century ago.

Some women refuse to submit birth reports for their children with new partners born soon after divorce, in order to prevent their former husbands from being recognized as the fathers of the children.

This gives rise to the issue of children who are not listed on any family register.

Meanwhile, the draft outline calls for scrapping the current rule banning women from remarrying within 100 days of divorce, which was established to avoid confusion under the existing paternity rules.

Furthermore, the outline also says that paternity-denying legal procedures should be allowed to be initiated not only by fathers as currently stipulated, but also by mothers and children.

The time limit for starting the procedures will be extended to three years after knowing about the birth from the current limit of one year.

Also, the outline says that a Civil Code clause recognizing parents’ rights to discipline their children will be deleted, in order to prevent child abuse in the name of discipline.

Instead, a provision banning parents from taking actions including child abuse that would negatively affect the healthy growth of children will be added.