The Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the justice minister, has compiled a draft revision to the law on civil enforcement that would clarify the rules on forced child custody changes between divorced parents. The proposed amendment, to be submitted to the Diet as early as this month, is designed to ensure enforcement of a court order to turn over custody of a child from one divorced parent to the other, as these orders are often not implemented in the absence of legal provisions for specific procedures. Also important is to take care that the children do not suffer psychological harm by experiencing a forced handover from one parent to the other.

The law on civil enforcement currently does not have a specific provision for enforcing custody transfers between divorced parents, whether ordered by a court or called for in arbitration. Until now, enforcement officers have handled such matters at their discretion when forcing a handover in the face of, for example, refusal to cooperate by the parent living with the child.

But when Japan acceded in 2014 to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets rules and procedures to settle cross-border custody disputes arising from breakups of international marriages, domestic legislation to implement the treaty stipulated that the court-ordered handover of a child can only be enforced in the presence of the parent who is currently living with the child. That rule then came to be applied to the enforcement of custody changes between divorced parents in domestic cases, and subsequently the number of court-ordered handovers actually enforced declined significantly.