Custody of Children
Following a divorce, a family court will determine which of the parents will maintain parental authority (shinken) over any minor children younger than 20 years of age (Article 766 of the Civil Code). If a foreign parent is designated parental authority, the parent may be granted visa status allowing them to raise the child/children in Japan.
The general practice is to award custody to the mother unless there is an overriding reason to award custody to the father. Nationality of the child is not considered crucial in the determination of which parent will assume custody. Joint custody is not recognized in Japan.
Japanese family law has no provision for visitation rights and has no legal mechanism to enforce visitation rights or other court-negotiated settlements afterwards. It is quite usual that upon divorce, the father pays nothing for the child's support and that he never sees his child.
If an international divorce includes joint custody of the children, it is important to the foreign parent to register it themselves, because joint custody is not legal in Japan. The parent to register the divorce may thus be granted sole custody of the child according to Japanese law. A foreign child custody agreement cannot be automatically enforced in Japan, although the court can order enforcement.
Qualification of Residence
Once a divorce is granted, the visa category "spouse of a Japanese" remains valid for the foreign spouse until the visa's date of expiration. If you wish to remain in Japan after this period you will need to change your visa status; for example to that of a working visa or student visa etc. If the foreign spouse maintains parental authority over the minor child or children with Japanese nationality following the divorce, that spouse may apply for a "long term resident" visa (teijusha 定住者)