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Complex laws dictate who a baby’s father is

Date Posted: 2007-03-22

Anna Nicole Smith’s infighting over rights to her five-month-old daughter has nothing on Okinawa.

Japanese law spells out who the father should be, but some mothers are now challenging the legality and morality of that law. The law sets the terms of legal fatherhood, which in cases where a divorce took place during the pregnancy period raises issues about who should be listed as the father.

Eight babies are currently without the real father’s name on the birth certificates, even when the birth father is also the current husband. The cases were uncovered during a survey by the Ministry of Justice Naha District.

Even lawyers are unsure how to interpret the law. “If a mother wants to correct the father’s name on a birth certificate,” says one attorney, “the court house will investigate and then recommend the baby’s father be listed. If the baby’s real father is also the current husband, it is okay. But if the birth certificate says the former husband is the father, it needs corrections with two names.”

In at least three cases, perhaps five, the issue is whose name to put, even when the listed father’s name is not the former husband. The issues become important because mothers are often entitled to social service benefits from the cities and other government agencies.

A case where the mother became pregnant during the divorce process, with the current husband believed to be the actual father, is causing more consternation in the court. Officially, says lawyer Seigen Nagayoshi, “she’s not divorced yet.”

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