World News

Parents denied visitation rights in Japan to keep fighting government in court

TOKYO (Reuters) - Lawyers for parents separated from their children in Japan said on Monday they would appeal a court decision that the government was not responsible for enforcing visitation rights.

Fourteen parents had sued the government claiming damages of 9 million yen ($80,000), arguing there was no legal framework in Japan to ensure they get proper access to their children. The Tokyo District Court dismissed the claim last week.

Parental alienation is a chronic problem in Japan, with children often losing contact with the non-custodial parent after an acrimonious split. Unlike most developed countries, Japan has no joint-custody system after divorce, and court-ordered visitation rights are often ignored with impunity. The police are reluctant to get involved.

“I’m certain that this ruling will not escape international condemnation,” Akira Ueno, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told a news conference on Monday. “We plan to appeal to this ruling.”

The World Health Organisation classified parental alienation this year as a health condition, while the United Nations stipulates children should have the right to maintain bonds with both parents.

The plaintiffs had claimed the parents’ lack of access to their children was a clear violation of the UN treaty on children’s rights, which Japan ratified in 1994.

In the ruling on Friday, presiding Tokyo District Court judge Tatsuro Maezawa said the UN treaty was “merely an agreement to respect” those rights, but had no binding power.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama