In the past we have written about international parental child abductions where one parent originally from a foreign country abducts their own child in violation of a child custody order or arrangement in the United States. The Hague Convention is an international treaty that governs international child custody disputes among signatory countries. An infamous non-signatory of the Hague Convention is Japan and many parents in the United States have had their children abducted and taken there. Recently, Japan developed a plan to join the international child custody treaty.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, approved a legal measure that would move Japanese law in line with the 1980 Hague Convention. The proposed law must still be approved by the Japanese Parliament. Under current Japanese family law, only one parent retains child custody in divorce cases. The vast majority of the time child custody goes to the mother. The child custody law prevents foreign and Japanese fathers alike from seeing their children post-divorce. Critics of the Japanese family law system say the system is biased against fathers.
The Hague Convention is an international law that helps enforce child custody decisions made by courts in the child's country of origin. It also helps enforce the rights of both parents. Japan is the only Group of Seven nation that has not signed the international child custody treaty. Other member nations such as the United States, Britain and France have repeatedly pressured Japan to join.
Japan's lack of participation in the Hague Convention received a lot of press in 2009 when an American father traveled to Japan in order to regain custody of his children. His ex-wife had taken his two children to Japan in violation of a U.S. court order. The American father was arrested by Japanese authorities but was later released and his case was dropped. Many affected foreign parents say they will believe Japan's stance towards child custody has changed when they see action.
Source: The Associated Press, "Japan approves plan to join child custody pact," 5/19/11