JAPAN: According to the Japan Times, a bill was proposed back in February that should revise the current civil code, changing current family law and throwing convention on its face. This should make Japanese divorcées very happy if the bill passes muster. The bill purports to allow Japanese divorcées the right to remarry within 100 days of the final divorce judgment. The current law in Japan is that a woman has to wait six months before she can remarry after a divorce. There is no corresponding law on the books for men. Is that chauvinistic or what?
In addition, the bill would allow a Japanese woman to keep her maiden name after marriage. At this time, she does not have the option to do so. Once married, it appears that a woman must take the name of her husband and so must any children born to the couple…Here in New York, I am aware of the fact that a wife has to ask the court’s permission to resume use of her married name following a divorce. But she does not have to take her husband’s last name upon marriage.
The bill also allows a Japanese woman to marry at 18. The original law allowed marriage at 16 for women and 18 for men for some bizarre reason. And the bill provides that if a couple has been living apart for 5 years or more, that is a legal basis or grounds for divorce. Presumably, Japan is a “fault” jurisdiction.
The bill is supported by the Japanese president, Yukio Hatoyama. But not all members of the cabinet and government are in favor. Says the Japan Times:
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyamahas said he supports the idea of allowing people to retain their surnames after marriage, but Cabinet minister Shizuka Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), one of the Democratic Party of Japan’s ruling coalition partners, has repeatedly expressed opposition, making it unlikely coordination within the Cabinet will go smoothly.
One of the more disturbing issues that the bill raises is the discrimination that exists against Japanese children who were born out of wedlock. It seems current law “restricts” the inheritance rights based on whether the child was born of the marriage or whether the child was born out of wedlock. It is somewhat surprising that such a modern and progressive society as Japan would have such antiquated laws on its books.
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