Japan Passes Amendment for Parents to Share Custody of Children After Divorce; Amendment Expected to Take Effect by FY26 (UPDATE 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

The Diet passed a proposed amendment of the Civil Code on Friday that will allow both parents to share custody of their children after a divorce.

A plenary session of the House of Councillors passed the amendment with a majority of votes from both the ruling and opposition parties. It is expected to go into effect by fiscal 2026.

The current law only grants sole custody to either parent after a divorce. It is the fist time in more than 70 years that the system has been changed.

Under the new system, parents can choose how they want they share custody. However, if they cannot agree, family courts will determine custody.

The amendment also stipulates that sole custody must be granted if there is concern regarding child abuse or domestic violence. Those who finalize their divorces prior to the amendment going into effect can switch to a joint custody agreement after receiving approval from family court.

If parents share custody, one parent can still make decisions in various urgent situations, such as emergency surgery or escaping an abusive environment.