A court in Kanagawa Prefecture has fined a mother on the run from an abusive husband for not registering her daughter’s birth for more than 30 years, a rare case that sheds renewed light on the struggle facing those without a koseki family registration, a lawyer said.
The woman was fined ¥50,000 by a court in the city of Fujisawa in early August for breaking the Family Register Law. She filed a complaint against the decision, which was rejected. The woman is planning on appealing to the Yokohama District Court on Thursday.
According to lawyer Hiroshi Minami, the woman didn’t register the birth of her daughter, now 33, when she bore her in 1982 with a man she had met after fleeing her former abusive husband a few years before.
The woman was afraid that registering her daughter would allow her former husband to learn her whereabouts and about the child’s existence, Minami said, citing a provision in the Civil Law that stipulates a child conceived by a wife is automatically recognized as being fathered by her legally married husband.
As a result, the daughter has always lived without a family registration.
The mother lived in Kyushu for about 20 years after marrying the man in 1961, but, unable to endure his abuse, she moved to Kanagawa Prefecture in 1980 without changing her marital status on the family registry.
It wasn’t until June of this year that the mother finally registered the birth of her 33-year-old daughter, following a legal decision the same month to recognize the daughter as a child of her second partner and a long-overdue divorce with her former abuser last year.
The Fujisawa court, however, fined the woman on the grounds that “there is no legitimate reason” behind her failure to register the daughter within 14 days of her birth, as is stipulated by law.
Former Lower House member Masae Ido, who represents a group supporting people without a family registration, voiced criticism that the decision by the court will “further complicate the problems” faced by such people, often known as mukoseki (those without a family registry) children.
The financial penalty imposed on the mother, she said, could serve as a disincentive for mukoseki people to come forward and register themselves after changed circumstances allow them to do so.