Japan is Joining Child Custody Treaty

Japan is joining an international treaty to help resolve cross border child custody disputes. It could happen by the end of this year since it has already been approved by parliament.

The 1980 Hague Convention governing the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction outlines rules and procedures regarding the custody of children, under the age of 16 years old, whose parents reside in different countries. There are currently 89 members of this treaty. A bill needed for Japan to approve the international treaty, that stipulates domestic implementation procedures, is set to clear during the current parliamentary session through June, according to Kyodo news agency.

Lawyers applauded this decision, but indicated that the treaty would have very little effect unless it is also accompanied by the changing of Japan’s domestic law. Japanese courts generally favor the Japanese parent in custody cases involving international marriages according to the international press.

Takao Yanase, a law professor at Chuo University in Tokyo, is concerned that Japan won’t implement the convention at face value. He says that Japanese family law can stop the return of children to their original country of residence. “Japanese law and the convention contradict each other, and this can be used as an excuse not to return the child,” Takao said. “The long standing practice of awarding sole custody was introduced about 60 years ago. Japanese society has changed quite a bit since then.”

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