‘Hague reduces child abductions’
The Yomiuri Shimbun
July 5th, 2014
Of four international child custody cases received since Japan joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, only one involves a child who was brought to Japan from overseas, according to the Foreign Ministry.
If the parent in Japan refuses the demand from the overseas parent for the child’s return, and the overseas parent then requests action under the Hague Convention, a Japanese court will make a judgment for the first time over whether a child should be returned to his or her country of original residency.
In the remaining three cases, parents claimed that their children were taken overseas, and the parents in Japan demanded that the children be brought back to Japan from the countries in question via the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Japan joined the Hague Convention partly at the strong urging of the United States and other countries that reported a remarkable number of cases in which Japanese mothers took their children to Japan without notifying their former husbands and other concerned parties.
Consequently, Japanese experts initially predicted a flood of applications for action under the convention. But so far, there has been only one application from overseas.
Regarding the issue, Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer belonging to the Daini Tokyo Bar Association who is an expert on the convention, said, “For Japan, joining the convention has deterred cases of children being taken to other countries.”
Onuki said he has received many e-mails from Japanese women living in other countries seeking his advice. The women, who wish to divorce their husbands and return to Japan with their children, asked whether their cases are subject to the convention.
Onuki explained to the women that unless they have suffered from domestic violence or other serious problems, taking away their children without their partners’ consent will result in their children being brought back to the countries where they had lived.
After Onuki recommended that the women return to Japan after obtaining the agreement of their husbands, many of the women gave up on their plans to forcibly bring their children to Japan.
The convention also enables parents whose children were taken away without their consent to demand meetings with their children, including in cases that occurred before April, when the convention went into effect.
The Foreign Ministry has received 30 applications for assistance in arranging such meetings. Of them, assistance measures to realize the meetings have begun in 21 cases.
Of the 30 cases, 20 are from parents overseas demanding a meeting with their children in Japan. The highest number among the 20 are from the United States at 13, followed by two from Canada.
In the remaining 10 cases, parents in Japan are demanding meetings with their children in other countries. Of the 10, four cases are demands to the United States, followed by three to Russia.
The Hague Convention stipulates that if a parent takes their child under 16 overseas without the partner’s consent, the child, in principle, must be brought back to the country where he or she lived.
Such cases that have occurred in Japan since April, when the convention went into effect in the nation, are subject to the stipulation.
There is also a system in which central government entities of the signatory countries offer such assistance as searching for the whereabouts of the children and providing lawyer referrals to parents whose children have been taken away.