Organized Panel Session
In Japanese law, after divorce there is no possibility of joint or shared custody of children. Any child's custody must be held by only one person, and at the moment approximately eighty percent of custody is awarded to mothers. Despite this legal structure, my ethnographic research found that a substantial number of divorced parents organize what I call de facto joint custody arrangements, creating and sustaining a workable arrangement that allows the child(ren) to maintain regular contact with both parents. Although there remain points of tension between the former spouses, in general these de facto joint custody arrangements are only possible if both parents imagine the best scenario for their children to involve steady parental connection and work to make that possible. For these former spouses being the best parent they can be requires enabling or allowing their ex to remain a connected parent as well, no matter the complications that might bring. Because there is no legal structure that explicitly supports such arrangements, parents and their extended families must figure out ways to balance parental needs and preferences with those of their children, as well how to handle family gatherings, financial responsibilities, new romantic relationships, step-parents or step-siblings, and the children's residence. In this presentation, I trace various strategies parents use to create, sustain, and explain de facto joint custody, to argue that their solutions manifest possibilities that the law does not imagine.