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IPCA – Background Information

Japan’s legal system is structured as a “Civil Law” system, based upon codified statutes. This is similar to the legal systems adopted by many countries around the world, most notably in Europe.

The U.S. legal system, by contrast, is a “Common Law” system, based upon case law and published judicial opinions.

The “Six Codes” govern the legal system in Japan, and family matters are consolidated under the Civil Code. Matters contained within the Civil Code are rarely referred for criminal prosecution.

Article 819 of the Civil Code currently does not allow for dual or joint custody after divorce, which can limit access or visitation by the noncustodial parent.

Japanese courts sometimes consider the “principle of continuity” as one factor when determining custody, which can be disadvantageous when one parent has been separated from his or her child for an extended period of time.

Japan’s acceding to the Hague Convention on Abductions in 2014 was an important step forward in recognizing that responsibility for making custodial determinations should lie solely with the court of competent jurisdiction in the child’s place of habitual residence, and not necessarily where the child happens to be currently residing.

The applicable law in Japan is called the “Act on Implementation of Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.” It is sometimes also referred to as “the Implementation Act.”

Online Resources

Divorce in Japan: U.S. Embassy Tokyo’s website regarding divorce in Japan.

Country information page on Japan by the U.S. State Department.

The Family Law System in Japan: The Japanese Ministry of Justice’s English page for foreign nationals in Japan regarding divorce and legal system in Japan.

Guide to the Family Court of Japan: A comprehensive English overview of Japan’s Family Court system created by the Supreme Court of Japan.