Japan to join Hague child-custody treaty in ’11

The Japan Times

Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010

Japan to join Hague child-custody treaty in ’11

Move to return ‘abducted’ kids to home countries

Kyodo News

Japan will become a party to a global treaty on child custody as early as next year amid growing calls abroad for Tokyo to join it and help resolve custody problems resulting from failed international marriages, government sources said Saturday.

The government will develop domestic laws in line with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of « abducted » children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights, the sources said.

Complaints have been growing over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings an offspring to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent, or regardless of custody determination in other countries, and denies the other parent access to the child.

Japan has come under pressure from the United States and European countries to join the 1980 treaty aimed at preventing one of the parents in a failed international marriage from taking their offspring across national borders against an existing child custody arrangement.

The government has judged it necessary to resolve the issue as soon as possible, since leaving it unresolved would undermine Japan’s international standing, the sources said.

However, the government has yet to determine when to ratify the treaty, as it is expected to take time to develop related domestic laws because of differences in the legal systems of Japan and other signatory nations.

For example, on parental rights, Japan’s law gives a single parent full custody of children in a divorce, virtually allowing the custodial parent to take the children away without the consent of the noncustodial parent, while the United States and Europe nations allow joint custody.

The Civil Code also does not mention visitation rights for noncustodial parents and many Japanese parents awarded custody are known to refuse the other parent access to the child.

Many civic groups active on the issue are urging the government to amend the Civil Code to allow joint custody but the government is set to forgo such an amendment at this stage, the sources said.

In January, ambassadors of the United States and seven other nations urged Japan to sign the Hague convention in a meeting with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Tokyo.

The government set up a division in the Foreign Ministry to deal with the issue last December.