Japan closer to changing child abduction laws

As previously reported on this blog, Japan ranks very high in terms of international abductions. In fact, the U.S. State Department reports that since 1994 a total of 321 children have been abducted or moved to Japan without both parent’s permission. Of those 321 children, none have been returned.

However, under mounting pressure from the U.S. to change how international child custody arrangements are followed, the Japanese Cabinet has approved a plan that would fall more in line with the Hague Convention on the Prevention of Child Abduction. Now the plan just needs to be approved by the Japanese legislature, which is expected to push back with some resistance.

In Japan, shared custody is not recognized nor is the country signed on to the Hague Convention, which means that if a father has custody in Missouri – but the mother has Japanese citizenship – she can move the children to Japan without any repercussion for breaking the U.S. custody agreement.

In addition – and part of the reason that Japan is opposed to signing the Hague Convention treaty – there is a common view that the mothers are actually moving back to Japan in order to get away from abusive American husbands.  This also heavily remains the view even if there has never been any evidence of domestic violence even taking place.

In general, the issues related to Japan and international child custody and abduction have been making headlines in the U.S. ever since an American father was arrested after he traveled to Japan in an attempt to reclaim his two children that his ex-wife has illegally taken out of the U.S. However, even though he had custody of the children and she had a U.S. court order not to leave the U.S., Japanese officials still sided with the mother, and the father had to return to the U.S. without his kids.

When looking at that father’s case, his attorney said that even if Japan does sign the Hague Convention, there may still not be help for those parents who have already lost their children, as the signing will most likely not be retroactive and only affect future international child custody and abduction cases.

Source: CNN, “Japan takes a step closer to reforming its child custody laws,” Tricia Escobedo, 21 May 2011

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