2008年11月16日 International Herald Tribune
POINT OF VIEW/ Mitsuru Munakata: Children, parents benefit from joint
custody THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
A man in Aichi Prefecture was arrested in August on suspicion of
killing his wife in June just before their divorce mediation
concluded. I heard that the couple was fighting over custody of their
oldest son. In May, a woman demanding the custody of her children was
killed by her former husband in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. In
Tokyo’s Suginami Ward in the same month, when a police officer tried
to stop a domestic disturbance between a separated couple over their
children, the husband grabbed the officer’s gun and fired a shot. In
January, a man killed his wife after she returned to her parents’ home
in Utsunomiya. The man said he wanted to see his child.
These are reported incidents of violence over child custody that
occurred in the first half of the year. I believe countless other
disagreements over child custody and visitation go unreported.
The nation’s Civil Law grants parental power over a child to one
parent only after a divorce. Even when courts provide for visitation
by the noncustodial parent, the decision is not legally binding.
Whether a divorced parent can actually see the children is left to the
discretion of the custodial parent. Courts tend to grant parental
authority to the parent in possession of the children after
separation. Custody battles are common because parents who take the
children first usually end up “the winner.”
I did not know this before I separated from my wife last year. Since
ours was a common-law marriage, I had no official parental authority
to begin with. However, after talking the matter over with my former
wife, I initially took our child under my care and allowed the mother
to see the child from time to time.
However, my former wife suddenly claimed that I was confining the
child and demanded that the child be taken into protective custody.
She took the child away and immediately had her second husband adopt
it. I was shocked that she could do such a thing just because she had
It took me a year before I could see my child again. Parents without
parental authority do not have legal parental rights or obligations.
If custodial parents do not allow noncustodial parents to see their
children, parents with strong ties to the children suffer all the
Major European and North American countries are shifting to a joint
custody system that gives both parents rights and requires them to
meet obligations as parents after they divorce. The single-parent
custody system may have been historically significant in the sense
that it decides which parent is responsible for the care of the
children of divorced couples. But now, all it does is prompt couples
to fight over the custody of their children and break the bond between
parents and children.
Psychologists agree that seeing both parents on a regular basis
contributes to the sound growth of children. Both parents have the
right and responsibility to care for their children, while children
have the right to be looked after by both parents. Clearly, it is
unnatural to sever ties between parents and children as a result of
Supported by prejudice that noncustodial parents lack parenting skills
and are to blame for broken marriages, courts have frequently severed
parent-child relationships. However, as more parents, both men and
women, become involved in child care, custody battles are increasing.
Guidelines are needed on child support for divorced or separated
A system of support by a third party to adjust relations between
divorced or separated parents should also be established. Legislation
is urgently needed to make it possible to recognize nontraditional
family structures for the benefit of the children.
* * *
The author heads a nationwide network of noncustodial parents seeking
visitation and exchanges with their children after divorce or
separation.(IHT/Asahi: November 14,2008)