For years, parents and children have suffered almost unimaginable consequences as a result of Japan’s refusal to accede to a particular international treaty. Under normal circumstances, if a parent involved in a child custody dispute illegally takes a child overseas in an unauthorized parental relocation action, international courts and governments will work together to ensure that the dispute is properly settled and that the child is reunited with his or her other parent.
Only in cases of abuse or parental unfitness are children generally kept away from the parent who did not engage in illegal relocation. In addition, the parent who took the child overseas in an unauthorized manner is often held accountable for his or her actions. Unfortunately, parents who illegally transport their children to Japan have not generally been held accountable nor have the transported children been reunited with their other parents.
The reason that Japan’s system has functioned so differently for decades is that it had long refused to recognize and enforce the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Thankfully, this will all change on April 1, 2014 when Japan will officially change its policy in regards to illegal parental relocation and child custody abduction actions.
In addition to future affected cases being treated in much the same ways as they are in most western nations, Japan is planning to create a central authority to locate children effectively abducted by their parents up until this point. A consultation process will also be initiated in order to resolve disputes involving parents living in Japan and those living internationally. This policy change is long overdue but is most welcome all the same.
Source: The Japan Times, “Japan to join child custody pact in April,” Oct. 23, 2013