Handle issue of unregistered children with their happiness as top priority

The Yomiuri ShimbunA child becomes unregistered because the registration of their birth has not been submitted for some reason by their parents. The present state of affairs in which such children, through no fault on their own, are subjected to disadvantages should be corrected quickly.

The Justice Ministry will start its review of a Civil Code provision that establishes the parent-child relationship. Keeping in mind the submission of a draft to the Legislative Council for deliberation next year, the ministry will soon launch a study panel of experts. The panel should deepen its discussion, putting the protection of children’s rights first.

Under the Civil Code provision, a child conceived by a woman during her marriage is presumed, from a legal point of view, to be a legitimate child of her husband. Any child who was born within 300 days after a couple’s divorce is also presumed to be a legitimate child of the separated father.

It is only husbands who can exercise the denial-of-legitimacy right in such cases. This is a rule that has remained unchanged since the Meiji era (1868-1912).

A person becomes unregistered when their mother does not submit the child’s birth registration for such reasons as that she does not want to have her child, who was born just before or after a divorce, to be registered as her ex-husband’s.

It used to be difficult for an unregistered person to even obtain a residence certificate. Even now, it is difficult for such people to rent apartments and open bank accounts in their own names. Such circumstances can only be called absurd for unregistered children.

According to the ministry, a total of 1,834 people have so far been confirmed as unregistered. While regional legal affairs bureaus and bar associations have been helping such people to obtain family registers, more than 700 people still remain unregistered. Most among them cite the Civil Code provision as a reason for their unregistered status.

Keep in line with times

Confirming the father of a child at an early stage and thus protecting the child’s right to inherit property and receive dependent care: This is what the Civil Code provision is aimed at realizing. As long as this clause gives rise to unregistered people, however, some sort of review is necessary.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been instituted with a plaintiff asserting that the provision recognizing the denial-of-legitimacy right only for husbands is unconstitutional.

The Osaka High Court in August concluded that the provision itself is constitutional, while noting a possibility that a wife and a child may suffer a great disadvantage. The ruling was based on a judgment that the use of the denial-of-legitimacy right ought to be limited, in order to confirm the father of a child at an early stage and to stabilize the status of their relationship.

While having respect for the aim of the Civil Code, the ruling also stated that “the issue of whether or not the denial-of-legitimacy right [should] be granted to wives and children should be left to the judgment of the Diet.”

Compared with the old days, divorce is no longer a rarity. There are more than a few cases in which more than 300 days have been required for a divorce to be realized after the couple had started living separately. When the changes in the times are taken into account, it seems to be reasonable that voices calling for the provision to be changed have been raised within the ruling parties.

Recognizing the denial-of-legitimacy right for wives and children and establishing an exceptional provision to the presumed legitimacy of a child: In order not to give rise to another unregistered person, isn’t it necessary for such measures be taken up for discussion?

Also to be discussed at the panel is an issue of the parent-child relationship of children who are born to married couples with the use of a third party’s sperm or egg cell. With regard to assisted reproduction technologies, the important thing is to discuss the issue from the viewpoint of the interests of children.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 8, 2018)Speech


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