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Hague Treaty on child abductions goes into effect in Japan

46 Comments

The Hague Treaty, which requires nations to return children taken by one parent to the countries where they usually reside, went into effect in Japan on Tuesday.

The Diet last year approved the international treaty on child abductions after decades of pressure from the United States and other Western nations.

Japan was the only member of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations that had not ratified the 1980 Hague Convention.

Hundreds of parents, mostly men from North America, Europe as well as thousands of Japanese, have been left without any recourse after their estranged partners took their children away.

Unlike Western nations, Japan does not recognize joint custody and courts almost always order that children of divorcees live with their mothers.

Under the convention, which applies to children under 16, a central authority will be set up in the foreign ministry to take charge of locating children who have been removed by one parent following the collapse of an international marriage, and to encourage parents to settle disputes voluntarily.

If consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will issue rulings.

The law will, however, allow a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, a provision campaigners say is vital, but which some say risks being exploited.

The law will allow for parents who separated before its enactment to apply to get a child returned, but contains a provision stating that the application can be refused if a child has been resident in the country for a year or more and is happily settled.

Detractors say the lumbering pace of Japan's justice system, where cases can take months or even years to be heard, will reduce the chance of a foreign parent making a successful applicant to have their child returned.

© Japan Today/AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

46 Comments
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Japan's Family Court system will drag out any case. In some cases it's a total of 4 - 6 hours in a year.

Divorce: 3 - 5 years Custody Battle: 5 - 10 years

Women sit at home and relax. The system is self-serving. Billions of yen in wasted time. Time to be a divorce lawyer, get paid.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

A positive step. I just wonder when this law will be actually used to return and abductee. I am not holding my breath!

4 ( +4 / -2 )

I remember many posters claiming this day would never come. I expected to log on and find them apologizing for slandering Abe's government. Instead I see that they've now just moved the goalposts.

-23 ( +8 / -30 )

If it weren't so tragic, it would be funny listening to how naive people actually think this is going to make a difference. Japanese courts will simply play the whole "the husband is a violent foreigner" card! If there weren't a glaring loop hole in the legislation, Japan never would have signed up in the first place. Reminds me of the whole TPP dance.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

Japan needs to come to grips with the changing times. Mothers are not always the best parent plus children need both parents!!!

8 ( +11 / -3 )

ah so - they will never be returned. It will be "from this day forward.."

Its not that Im against the hague convention, but the point is for it to work in Japan, they would need to change the whole basis of Japanese family law first.

They have implemented this treaty so as not to anger america, not because they care about foreign fathers seeing their estranged children.

5 ( +7 / -3 )

Good for Japan

-4 ( +7 / -10 )

While it does look good on paper it is not mean much in reality. As the article states, there are no domestic joint custody laws in Japan and the mother only has to hint at abuse (not prove) and it's all over. My kids live 5k away from me and she won't let me see them, so good luck getting access from another country.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Sounds good in paper...but in practice: "gaijin parent is dangerous"

7 ( +10 / -3 )

This is not a step forward. It's a step back. The Japanese government can now say" we signed The Hague. So lay off". So now, they will just rest. The poster named "disillusioned" is spot on!!

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Nothing will happen.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The law will, however, allow a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, a provision campaigners say is vital, but which some say risks being exploited.

It's the loophole, all a judge needs to hear is "I am afraid" and bam nothing happens.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Japan needs to show good faith here because respect for international law is essential with China and Russia throwing their weight around. North Korea is a creation of China and a preview of the future if there is no rule of law.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I don't understand the "doom-and-gloomers," here. There is no reason to believe Japan is going to overplay the "abuse" card.

This is a good thing, and we should all wait and see what happens before summarily denouncing the Japanese court system.

In any case, I hope the parents of some of these children are able to see their babies, now.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

The real news will be when a Japanese court orders an abducted child to be returned and the parent complies with the ruling. I very much doubt that such a ruling will be made in my lifetime.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

**While this is good news indeed! I have so many doubts about the loopholes here. It's very hypocritical in the sense, Under the Japanese way of dealing with this issue.

The Japanese Government will hire Lawyers to investigate why does the Japanese Ministry need lawyers? Who are they for? Hello!!

Sounds like the same way, many of the people I know in this situation have been victimized thus far. In my case, She just denied access, knowing her Country protects the Mother in all cases. Sounds to me like this will be the same old same old. Tim Johnston Japan**

2 ( +5 / -3 )

MGinate - You've never had anything to do with the Japanese divorce courts, have you? Japan does not support joint custody within its own country, so why would they acknowledge it from abroad? They've set it up with a loophole (as usual) and when it comes to the crunch it will mean nothing! They've also refused to acknowledge the hundreds of previous kidnapping cases, which gives you a good idea of their resolve on this issue. It's just paper talk brought on from pressure by the US and there will be no change to the current situation at all! It's not doom and gloom! It's reality!

4 ( +8 / -5 )

This is a good thing, and we should all wait and see what happens before summarily denouncing the Japanese court system.

You would think so, but any frequent reader of this site knows that such common sense rarely prevails.

In truth, the family court systems of any nation on earth are open to manipulation through false allegations of domestic violence or abuse. There is nothing particular to Japan in that regard. Those who have had a bad experience with family courts in Japan naturally hold some animosity toward the system. But I'm certain they would be saying the same thing if they lived elsewhere and had the misfortune to have married/procreated with a liar and a manipulator. In America for example its dead easy to get a TRO against someone. Once you have that on your record, good luck in the family court system. I have friends who have direct experience in that regard.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Oh dear, it looks like this was translated from Japanese:

Hundreds of parents, mostly men from North America, Europe as well as thousands of Japanese

Shouldn't this be THOUSANDS of parents, mostly men from North American and Europe, as well as HUNDREDS of Japanese?

The bias in this article is glaring. The problem is not with the North American and European courts, who tend to be fairly even handed, giving custody to the parent who is best suited to care for the child, and respecting international treaties for the most part. The problem is with the Japanese family courts that almost exclusively give custody to the woman, unless the woman is a foreigner, in which case they tend to suddenly decide that perhaps dads can change diapers and make bento.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

@kimuzukashiiiii  They have implemented this treaty so as not to anger america well considering many of the children that have been abducted where born American citizens, you cant blame them. Japanese are pained by the 20-30 abducties that were taken by North korea, multiply that by 10 and thats how many American fathers feel pained that there kids were abducted to Japan, many never to be seen again

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If the "gaijin husband" already has a job in Japan, he could just move to another part of Japan and arrange visits for his children. That's what I did. However, I was not the "violent gaijin wife" and I still have the scars, both physical and mental, from my "violent Japanese husband".

6 ( +8 / -2 )

@wtfjapan....

I assume you have some very good source to make that statement

Japanese are pained by the 20-30 abducties that were taken by North korea, multiply that by 10 and thats how many American fathers feel pained that there kids were abducted to Japan, many never to be seen again

A lot of people here... I doubt half of them even have a GF/BF, even less a child. The Hague Treaty is a good thing, but before you think the "law" and the "courts".... wouldn't it be better to provide the family and the support they need? An international marriage is already biased in from the beginning and a child of that relation has even more stuff to bare.. and that is talking about a family that has no marital problems.

A divorce is hard for the couple, even harder for the kids.. and it might be one of the hardest things for a kid of international parents divorcing.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

A good step, now to push for speedier cases and resolutions.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It's a good step in the right direction, but as Disillusioned said, for the most part, it just looks good on paper and as long as Japan doesn't acknowledge "joint custody" which is the key word here and add to that, that a woman doesn't need to show physical proof when making a claim of abuse, which to me in itself is astounding, where usually in Japanese criminal system, you are always guilty until proven innocent. If so, shouldn't these mothers making these claims be made to provide some sort of physical evidence to prove and back up their claim? Foreigners will NOT be given the benefit of a doubt. The Japanese spouse can do no wrong. Also, I heard that the law will not be retroactive, basically, past cases will not be heard. I'm not sure about this, but that is what I heard.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Since when a law can be retroactive???

Do you even know what that will mean?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Non news. Yawn.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

This is a joke! This treaty has too many "ifs" all the mother has to do is say she is afraid or was abused, also if she hid the kid for more than one year is like home free you can"t touch me, if the kid is settle etc.... this is not good news at all if anything its bad news for those who are involved in trying to get access to their child! Wow to many nothing as one poster wrote Nothing will happen! I agree!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@bass4funk

a woman doesn't need to show physical proof when making a claim of abuse, which to me in itself is astounding, where usually in Japanese criminal system, you are always guilty until proven innocent. If so, shouldn't these mothers making these claims be made to provide some sort of physical evidence to prove and back up their claim? Foreigners will NOT be given the benefit of a doubt. The Japanese spouse can do no wrong.

As for the first part of your comment (quoted here above) the hospital could easily have given "proof" that I had been attacked, it was my husband who benefited (against me) from the "Japanese criminal system, you are always guilty until proven innocent". However, in those days, there was absolutely NO protection by the police so you are completely correct when you say : "Foreigners NOT being given the benefit of a doubt", my "Japanese spouse could never do any wrong..."

5 ( +7 / -2 )

So many of you have been played. For years you demanded the Hague convention be ratified. And after all that frustration and emotion, it finally has, and it will make no difference.

You got to admit, those bastards play a good game, may they rot in hell!

But, to be honest, I think its just plain wise to err on the side of the mother. Lots of mistakes happen in any system, and only moreso when it comes to courts trying to figure out personal family details (they can't). But I am highly disturbed by the lack of visitation rights in Japan. What so many of you should have been fighting for all these years was that, not ratification of the Hague convention.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

...as long as Japan doesn't acknowledge "joint custody" which is the key word here and add to that, that a woman doesn't need to show physical proof when making a claim of abuse....

Completely agree with you there, Bass. The latter is a loophole that might as well be a black hole, while the former is some incomprehensible unwillingness to act in the best interests of the child probably borne from instinctive laziness: It would require constant monitoring over the child's minor years to ensure compliance. Most bureaucrats just can't be bothered.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The true test is when the first case goes to court and a proven kidnapped child is returned.

When pressure from the embassies would be brought to bear.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Also, I heard that the law will not be retroactive, basically, past cases will not be heard. I'm not sure about this, but that is what I heard.

Yes, I believe that is the case too.

As for 'abuse' it can easily be manufactured. I recall reading the case of a Canadian man whose Japanese wife made a recording of a row (they weren't getting on) then took it to the Canadian police and embellished the drama with a physical attack that never actually happened. While the husband was tied up with the police arrest and investigation, the woman took as much of his money as she could get her hands on and fled with the children to - guess where! How sly is that?!

It's on a blog somewhere.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Again people... law in most countries has as base irretroactivity. New laws cannot be applied to the past... only and only in special occasions.

The U.S. law is also not retroactive. It was in the past, but not now (again there are special cases though.)

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japanese courts don't side with the mother, they side with whoever takes the children first. I'm a single foreign father in japan with custody of my kids. My ex Japanese wife was psychotic, violent/ abusive, drunk etc.

One day I witnessed her slap our 2yo in the face because he wouldn't stop crying. That was it for me. I just took the kids then and there and left.

A year later our divorce was finalized and the Japanese courts awarded me custody because they said it would be harmful to remove the children from my care since they had been living with me as the primary caregiver for a year already.

Japanese family law has many problems but it's not true that the courts favor the mother.... It's just that in most cases the mom takes the kids while dad's at work.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Gaijinjland - I think you are actually right... I've learned that the Japanese court normally consider who the primary caregiver is.. It seems like moms always get custody not because they are moms but because moms usually spend more time with children while dads work. If a dad is spending more time with kids while mom is busy working outside, then i am positive that the dad is awarded with custody whether he is Japanese or foreign.

Now what japan needs is to introduce joint custody law because the J-law is outdated.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The goal of Japanese courts is often to drag out cases so long that the two parties come to a mutual agreement before the court has to reach a decision. In the case of children, the longer they are with one parent, the more that decision is made in the eyes of the court.

This is a positive step for those parents who've had their kids ripped away by an estranged spouse, but I highly doubt any of those parents will see their kids any time soon, let alone gain custody of them. The courts will wait for the parents to work something out mutually. Barring that, they will side with the parent who currently has custody more often than not.

Lesson to take away from this: if you're in a bad marriage that's falling apart and you want to see your kids ever again, be the person who leaves first, and take the kids with you. It sounds harsh, but the way that Japanese family courts work, that's the unfortunate reality of the situation.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I remember many posters claiming this day would never come. I expected to log on and find them apologizing for slandering Abe's government. Instead I see that they've now just moved the goalposts.

hidingout, leopards never change their spots. In fact, I'm not inclined to believe that the spouse was the sole fault of marriage breakdown or resulting situation thereafter, if at all, based on how rampantly anti-Japanese some of the posters are. Some of them have been posting (complaining) daily for years, well before I showed up. I have to wonder what a joy it must (not) have been married to them.

In any case, this is a good thing. Japan is steadily showing more and more recognition of its foreign residents as a whole and that benefits us all.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Lesson to take away from this: if you're in a bad marriage that's falling apart and you want to see your kids ever again, be the person who leaves first, and take the kids with you. It sounds harsh, but the way that Japanese family courts work, that's the unfortunate reality of the situation.

It does sound harsh, but the Japanese party, as we have seen on many an occasion, has no qualms about doing this, so if you have a Japanese spouse and things are on the rocks, you have to play them at their own game. Having said that, what about the Japanese living abroad who intends to abscond with the kids to Japan? If you are in a western country and you 'kidnap' your kids, you will then be leaving yourself open to prosecution in your own country with its laws, so really, the Japanese have their keiki and eat it when it comes to this awkward situation. Well, most of the time, at any rate.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

the application can be refused if a child has been resident in the country for a year or more and is happily settled. That line right there makes me wonder why Japan signed it. Just ignore it...this is the "loop hole" that Japanese parents will use. SAD! Who determines "Happily"?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Skeeter27, please don't be naive. Children don't need both parents, just one with a strong heart and genuine love. I think it is cruel to suggest that by having one parent a child's needs are somehow not being met. It is even more cruel to remove a child from someone who has genuine love and a desire to be with them, it is sad and that level of selfishness is frankly appalling. I'm sure you din't mean anything by it but i wish somebody would tell me when i was tripping over my own tongue.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Was Malaysia flight MH370 a "false flag" operation designed to prepare civilians for the increased use of Interpol databases for passport control at airports for flights to Japan?

Well something needed to be done to stop this STATE-SPONSORED CHILD KIDNAPPING and HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Michael KarolewicsApr. 02, 2014 - 05:46AM JST

It is written in the body of the Hague Convention. http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=24

Article 12

Where a child has been wrongfully removed or retained in terms of Article 3 and, at the date of the commencement of the proceedings before the judicial or administrative authority of the Contracting State where the child is, a period of less than one year has elapsed from the date of the wrongful removal or retention, the authority concerned shall order the return of the child forthwith.

The judicial or administrative authority, even where the proceedings have been commenced after the expiration of the period of one year referred to in the preceding paragraph, shall also order the return of the child, unless it is demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment.

Michael KarolewicsApr. 02, 2014 - 05:46AM JST

Just ignore it.

I do not like the convention, either, because it prohibits court to consider the best interest of child when making return decision. A child rescued out of a slum in an underdeveloped country will be sent back to the slum because of the convention.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ RB

hidingout, leopards never change their spots. In fact, I'm not inclined to believe that the spouse was the sole fault of marriage breakdown or resulting situation thereafter, if at all, based on how rampantly anti-Japanese some of the posters are. Some of them have been posting (complaining) daily for years, well before I showed up. I have to wonder what a joy it must (not) have been married to them.

Hehe. Thanks. When Abe first became PM and very quickly declared that he was planning to get Japan's signature on this treaty, JT erupted in a cascade of mockery. Never happen they said. Abe is just pretending to suck up to the USA they said. Well, a year later and Japan has signed - proving them all wrong.

Now, its those same people complaining that there is no provision for retroactive cases. And predicting that Japan will never grant custody to a gaijin. Nope, never. And making crude generalizations about the way gaijin husbands are viewed in Japan. Not one person admitting that they were wrong in saying Japan would never sign. Its just disgraceful the way some people conduct themselves on this site.

People don't like to have their stupidity pointed out to them I guess.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@hidingout

Japan is NOT getting any additional medals or praise, nor should they. This went on far too long, so many lives have been uprooted and ruined because Japan basically, had to be dragged in and pushed kicking and screaming to sign this! Make NO mistake, the Japanese ARE NOT at all happy about signing this, and that's a fact and they will still no doubtingly try to cheat the system any way they can. Anyone can sign a treaty, but implementing it is an entirely different matter and once Japan can take this issue seriously and judge accordingly and fairly, without any prejudices or taking narrow minded view point. I'm not going to hold my breath. We shall see, how serious and sincere Japan really is.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japan is NOT getting any additional medals or praise.

Right. Cause that's what I was suggesting?

Japan basically, had to be dragged in and pushed kicking and screaming to sign this.

So say you. From my recollection Mr Abe said it was a "priority" soon after he came to office.

Anyone can sign a treaty, but implementing it is an entirely different matter.

Can you point to other examples of Japan flouting treaties or international agreements they have signed? Japan abides by her signature on official documents. Japan is not the ROK.

We shall see, how serious and sincere Japan really is.

Yes we shall. Can I count on you to be the bigger man and come here to post how wrong you were when Japan is proven to be abiding by this agreement?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Right. Cause that's what I was suggesting?

Well, it's not getting any until further notice.

So say you. From my recollection Mr Abe said it was a "priority" soon after he came to office.

How long has Abe been in office and how long did he drag his feet?

Anyone can sign a treaty, but implementing it is an entirely different matter.

Can you point to other examples of Japan flouting treaties or international agreements they have signed? Japan abides by her signature on official documents. Japan is not the ROK.

From TPP to IWC to equal treatment of foreigners etc., I can go on and on at how many times Japan has reneged on its pledge and YES, Japan is NOT the ROK, but there isn't that much difference between the two when it comes to these social issues.

Yes we shall. Can I count on you to be the bigger man and come here to post how wrong you were when Japan is proven to be abiding by this agreement?

Sure and likewise to you, I want to extend that same curtesy to you as well.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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