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International custody issues with Japan get easier for US parents

Any couple who gets divorced in Texas can run into some serious legal concerns. How will the assets be divided? Should one spouse be awarded alimony? What will happen to our children? This last question is among the most difficult issues to tackle when it comes to a divorce; and the situation can be made even more challenging when one parent decides to take a child in defiance of court orders. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon and families all over the country have had to deal with interstate or international child custody disputes.

We have discussed a number of these cases on this blog in the past. Each story is unique, but they all share some common traits that can make these situations especially upsetting. One such obstacle that many parents face is when another parent takes a child to another country that has not joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Hague Convention is a treaty that countries all over the world, including the U.S., are a part of. It protects the parental rights of someone who has had a child taken to another country by an ex. However, not every country has signed the treaty and until recently, Japan was one of the countries.

But Japan recently joined the convention and will now be able to assist U.S. parents who have had a child taken to Japan by an ex, and vice versa. According to the terms of the treaty, participating countries are obligated to help locate a child who has been taken overseas without the permission of the other parent. It is then up to the courts in whatever country the couple lived in with their child prior to an abduction to decide the best course of action. If a parent fails to comply with requests to return a child, family courts in Japan will step in.

According to reports, thousands of families have been ripped apart because one parent has taken a child to Japan without the other parent's consent. And it has been very difficult for these parents to get their child back in some cases. But now that Japan is one of many countries that have signed the Hague Convention, hopefully the parents who have had their child taken overseas will be able to get their son or daughter back and protect their parental rights.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, "Japan finally signs Hague convention governing international child custody disputes," Jan. 25, 2014

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