Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Family Law Reform

"TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Justice Ministry unveiled on Friday at a policy meeting the outline of a bill to revise Japan's Civil Code which would enable married couples to choose whether to have the same family name or keep their birth names.

"Justice Minister Keiko Chiba hopes to gain Cabinet approval by the end of March, and the government is considering submitting the bill -- which also includes abolishing inheritance discrimination against children born out of wedlock -- to the Diet during its current session.

"Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said he supports the idea of allowing people to retain their surnames after marriage, but Cabinet minister Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, one of the Democratic Party of Japan's two ruling-coalition partners, has repeatedly expressed opposition, making it unlikely that coordination within the Cabinet will go smoothly.

"In a broader revision to the law, couples could make a one-time choice of whether to have the same or different family names when they get married. And if they decide to have separate names, the family name of their children should be unified with either one of them.

"Couples married before the revision, on the other hand, would have a year after the revision to make their choice, but the family name of their children would remain the same.

"Other proposed revisions include shortening to 100 days the current six-month prohibition period for divorced women to remarry, raising the legal marriage age for women from 16 years old or older to the same as men -- 18 years old or older -- and setting "living separately for more than five years against the purpose of marriage" as legal grounds for divorce.

"The DPJ has attempted a number of times since 1997 to legislate the proposal to revise the law since it was first put forward by a Justice Ministry advisory panel in 1996.

"But it has never succeeded due mainly to opposition from the then ruling Liberal Democratic Party which argued that allowing married couples to have different family names would lead to family breakdowns and destroy traditional Japanese values."

By Mainichi Shimbun (2/20/2010), Link to article (last visited 2/23/2010)

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