A 32 year old woman was able to see her 6 year old daughter for the first time in four months after she separated from her husband. This visit, which lasted for an hour, was arranged and supervised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government as part of a program launched on May this year.
In this program, the government mediates and helps divorced spouses see their children who have been living with the other spouse. The program was launched to implement the revised Civil Code that was enforced just this April. Under the new code, parents who have not been awarded custody of their children are still encouraged to see them. However, sometimes due to emotional issues over the divorce, some are not able to contact their former spouse in order to arrange for a meeting. Private organizations exist that also help arrange and supervise such visitation, but at 10,000 yen (approx. $123) per meeting, not many can afford them. The metropolitan government reports that there has been a drastic increase in requests for mediation in the past decade. Last year alone totaled 8,714 cases. There have also been 240 inquiries regarding the government’s program since it started in May, 130 of which requested meetings.
Unfortunately, of those requests, only seven were accepted and only three actually took place. The reason for the small number of accepted requests largely has to do with the red tape involved. But more importantly, it is because the government has imposed what experts consider a strict income criteria, making the program available only to low-income earners and excluding many parents who would otherwise qualify. Additionally, both parents must first agree to the meeting before government accepts the request. The Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry has currently no plans to ease the conditions or increase the income ceiling requirement.