A child custody battle based in Texas can be hard enough for both parents to endure and to resolve, but imagine a child custody battle based in a foreign country where the local laws are skewed against fathers and the country has declined to provide a remedy for years. That is the story of some American fathers who have been pushing for child custody rights in Japan.
More than two dozen American fathers and foreign fathers marched in the streets of Japan Tuesday morning. The fathers were marching in protest to the lack of access to their children where the mothers of the children refuse to share child custody with the fathers and are protected by Japanese law. The timing of the protest was coordinated with Vice President Joe Biden's official visit to Japan.
The fathers want the United States to put further pressure on Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention). Japan promised to sign the Hague Convention in May. The Hague Convention is an international treaty that covers child custody issues that stem from parental child abductions across international boundaries. The treaty requires that a child be returned to his or her habitual residence if one parent flees to another country with the child to evade a child custody order or custody dispute.
Currently, there are 173 American children who have been abducted by one of their parents to Japan. Despite Japan's promise to sign the treaty, Japan will not apply the Hague Convention retroactively to current child custody disputes between Japanese and American parents.
One American father who has lived in Japan for 14 years has not been able to see his 7-year-old son for three months. Talking about the international child custody issue, he said, "I have no rights here."
Source: Stars and Stripes, "Left-behind fathers urge U.S. to push Japan to sign Hague Treaty," Charlie Reed, Aug. 23, 2011