Japanese lawmakers are stepping up efforts to address an increasing number of cases of unpaid child support by parents without custody rights after divorce.
A group of female lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party presented Justice Minister Masako Mori in late January with a set of requests including the creation of a system in which the government temporarily compensates for unpaid child support while conducting investigations to determine the assets of those who are responsible for paying child care costs.
“Ensuring payments of child support is indispensable for settling the problem of child poverty,” the group said.
Mori set up a private study panel the same day to prepare legislation related to establishing a compensation system. She also dispatched Justice Ministry officials to Finland and Sweden to study factors contributing to high child-support payments in the two countries.
Members of the panel have examined the creation of a public support system for single-parent households by referring to foreign countries’ measures to address nonpayment of amounts designated in divorce arrangements, such as deductions from the responsible party’s salary and temporary government compensation.
“We can lose no time because the issue involves children’s lives tomorrow,” Mori said.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, only 24 percent of single-mother households were receiving child support payments in fiscal 2016. While 43 percent of child-rearing single mothers in the survey had agreed on child support with their former husbands, more than 40 percent of the arrangements did not take legal forms such as arbitration and notary deed and so were nonbinding.
Among other survey findings, only 6 percent of the single mothers without such arrangements were receiving child support payments. Asked why they had made no arrangement to receive payments, many said their former husbands had no intention or ability to pay or that they wanted to cut off any ties with them.
A separate group of LDP lawmakers is planning to make it mandatory to include child support in divorce arrangements and ensure payments are made. The lawmakers will call for the government to include their proposals in an economic and fiscal policy framework it will adopt this summer.
In a related development, the major opposition Democratic Party for the People drew up in March an outline of a bill to obligate a married couple in the process of divorce to conclude a child-support accord in the form of notary deed before their official split. The bill calls for a reduction of fees for drawing up the notary deed.