Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Registration of Children Born after Divorce Begins in Japan

A new registration system under which municipalities accept babies born within 300 days after a divorce as the child of the mother's new husband started Monday. The measure, however, requires doctor certification proving conception happened after the divorce.

The Civil Code stipulates a baby born within 300 days of divorce is the former husbands' child without exception. The new system is an exceptional measure based on an instruction by the Justice Ministry. According to the ministry, there had been 20 cases of birth notification being submitted as of Monday in 13 prefectures, including four in Tokyo and three each in Kanagawa and Hiroshima.

In Sumida Ward, Tokyo, a couple with a baby unregistered since the couple's marriage visited the ward registration counter Monday morning and submitted forms to register the baby's birth. The baby was born at the end of last year. The mother, 38, said: "I'm relieved because my son can be registered like most other children. I feel I should apologize to him for keeping him waiting to be registered."

According to the ministry, there are at least 2,800 babies born each year within 300 days following a divorce. But 90 percent of such children are believed to be conceived before divorces are official and are not covered under the new measure.

A lawmaker-initiated legislation studied the issue of conception before divorce, but was passed without the consideration due to moral considerations brought up by the Liberal Democratic Party. The ruling parties currently are discussing other measures to address the issue.


Doctor certification hard to get

Some have pointed out that obtaining a doctor's certification under the new system is difficult. A couple in Tokushima Prefecture, who had their eldest son three years ago, had to wait a month to submit divorce papers the woman's former husband had filled out. The child was conceived shortly after the divorce was made official, but the woman said it could be deemed as happening before the divorce because the assumed period of pregnancy in doctor's certification was short. Her husband, 33, said, "I hope the government becomes more flexible on pregnancies following divorces."

A man in Kobe whose situation is not covered by the new system said: "It's too bad we can't still register our baby. I'm waiting for the whole system to change, but this is a start."

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 22, 2007)