Thursday, December 22, 2005

Japan - Haven for International Child Abduction

English-language Japanese newspapers have reported on another case of a child being abducted by a Japanese parent to Japan.

Japan refuses to become a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, in spite of international pressure that it do so. The family courts in Japan do not provide any significant protection to foreign parties seeking custody of their children or even access to their children. As a result, Japan has become a renowned haven for international child abduction. See for links to several of my articles on this subject.

In the recent case, a Japanese mother living in Vancouver, Canada took her two children, age 10 and 7, to visit their grandparents in Japan. A Canadian court had awarded custody to the father. Once the children were in Japan, the mother refused to allow them to return. She secured a temporary custody order from the Saitama court and ultimately a permanent order of custody. Japanese courts do not recognize or enforce foreign custody decrees, and in this case they refused to apply the Canadian decree.

If the father seeks visitation with his children he should expect little mercy from the courts. The newspapers also reported on another foreign father in Japan who won the right to have three hours of visitation per year with his children. Astonishingly, although the father appealed, so did the mother claiming that three hours a year is too much.

Prospects for left-behind dads whose children are in Japan are bleak. Japanese law makes no provision for joint custody. Usually the only way to secure results for such fathers is to find other legal ways to impose pressure on the mother.

Certainly it can be a horrible mistake to allow a Japanese parent to take children away from their home in another country for a visit to Japan. In my practice I find that it is a tough job to educate the courts in countries outside Japan as to the severity of the danger that children face if the court will not issue an injunction to prevent the proposed visit.