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Japan gives final approval to child abduction treaty

51 Comments

Japan gave final approval Friday to an international treaty on how to settle cross-border disputes over the custody of children, officials said.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endorsed a decision by both houses of parliament last year to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The convention will take effect in Japan on April 1, the foreign ministry said.

"Since the number of people who move across borders has dramatically increased and international marriage and international divorce have increased in recent years, it is very important for the Government of Japan to conclude the Hague Convention, which is an international rule to deal with issues such as the wrongful removal of a child," the ministry said in a statement.

The move comes after decades of pressure from the United States and other Western nations.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations that has not joined the Hague Convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or to fathers, leaving few legal avenues for those whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

Hundreds of U.S. parents have complained that they have no recourse to see their half-Japanese children. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.

U.S. lawmakers have long demanded Japan fall into line on the issue, one of the few open disputes between the close allies.

In February last year, Abe promised action after White House talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

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

© (c) 2014 AFP

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

Well, this paragraph just dashed all the hopes that swelled up inside me as I read this. Ever got in an argument with a spouse that had any physical aspect to it? Things getting thrown? People being shoved? Ever yell - legitimately - at your kid in front of your spouse? Get ready for these episodes, no matter how distant, to be used against you to the fullest extent of the law.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Detoothed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I see this is a positive move overall, but as @combinibento wrote, the domestic violence provision of the law will most likely preclude all possibility of children being returned, in all cases.

Even acts as insignificant as having criticized a spouse will likely be construed by the Japanese courts as domestic violence. At the same time, any claims of domestic violence on the non-Japanese side will surely be ignored by the Japanese courts.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or to fathers

Have the Japanese courts ever even once granted custody to a foreign parent in cases where both parents file for custody. I may be wrong, but I believe not. At any rate, the Japanese courts have definitely never returned an abducted child back to his/her home country. Never once.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It means nothing! Absolutely nothing! There are no domestic joint custody laws in Japan, so there is no chance of the Japanese courts following foreign laws. The Japanese woman only has to hint there was some kind of abuse and it's case closed! Japan has also stated they will refuse to acknowledge the hundreds of previous cases, which is what brought this problem to the surface in the first place. Sorry, but it means nothing! There are also many foreign fathers still living in Japan that have been denied access to their kids, plus the thousands of Japanese fathers also being denied access to their kids. It means nothing!!!

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Yes, that clause is wide open to exploitation I'm afraid. It would appear you need only say 'I fear abuse' to sway the court.

Perhaps both parties should say it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Least we forget the children who are still kept hidden in Japan by their selfish criminal abductors and to those children who have now grown into adults with poisoned minds.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Does anyone know what happens in the courts when the foreigner is the woman?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most studies on child abuse find that mothers are more likely to abuse children than fathers. Still, the Japanese courts have never used abuse by a mother as grounds for granting custody of children to a non-Japanese father.

Apparently, legal practitioners in Japan just can't fathom the possibility that a Japanese citizen in these cases is anything but a victim, never an aggressor. Oh the hypocrisy.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@Chuckles418 In case mother is foreigner http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/per-yam.html http://www.meetup.com/Kizuna-Child-Parent-Reunion-Japan/members/11892195/

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Sensato

"Most studies on child abuse find that mothers are more likely to abuse children than fathers."

No! This is a massive fallacy. More children are abused by mothers than fathers, yes. But over 90 per cent of childcare is performed by mothers, not fathers. If you take that into account, then fathers are three times more likely to abuse their kids.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

I knew there would be a hook. Knew it. The Japanese simply cannot deal with foreign pressure without sliding in some sneaky back-door clause. Ah! Japan, so very special. Very special Japan.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Wow, I smell a shite storm a-brewin'! How many kids, do you think, have been abducted to Japan by their (most of the time) mothers in the last 20-some-odd years? They say over 100 cases filed, but how many people have just never bothered, knowing the system? Will the Japanese government assist these fathers in finding their abducted children? Will the fathers really have a real chance at seeing their children again? How can you prove you don't abuse a kid? I guess this is a step in the right direction, but I too fear it won't be enough. Good luck to those who now have a chance!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Don't use the child as a football.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

This is not worth the paper its written on and will change nothing. Japanese family law needs to be changed before anything like the hague can be properly implemented.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@sensato, disillusioned, combinibento

Apparently, legal practitioners in Japan just can't fathom the possibility that a Japanese citizen in these cases is anything but a victim, never an aggressor. Oh the hypocrisy.

That's the real problem. It is absolutely inconceivable for a Japanese woman to be an abuser, but the foreigner is always angry and the brute. My thinking is, from now with this big loophole that women will say, he yelled at me, looked at me with hateful eyes, pushed me, which would be considered abuse, the father lost the case and right back to where we were before this treaty was signed. There is no doubt a lot of room for abuse to happen here. So basically, nothing changes.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Here's some info and a website for you to check just how terrible this situation really is:

"CRC of Japan estimates that there are 2,000 or more new cases in Japan each year (http://www.crcjapan.com/statistics.html), involving not just U.S. citizen children, but children from all over the world. Practically all these children grow up completely isolated from their foreign parent throughout their childhood. It is not known how many, if any, ever re-establish a meaningful relationship with their foreign parent once they reach adulthood."

Website: http://www.crcjapan.com/

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I would laugh if this were not all so very sad.

I hate to break to you folks, but no law or court system is ever going to be very good at resolving a spat between two people over kids.

All this will do is exchange some old problems for some new ones. The pain, suffering and even the injustice will be about the same. Most estranged parents will never see it that way though. They want their kids. They don't want the truth.

One positive thing here is that some of these cases will finally get some processing. But that comes with some huge negatives and those will all be on the kids. They may have been stable for years, and now they get to go back to being a football. Some who got comfortable here will be sent elsewhere against their very wishes. Like I said, old problems exchanged for new ones.

The only solid positive thing I see is that estranged parents might get to see their kids for the first time in a long time as a result of court cases in progress or resolved. A less solid positive thing is that the kids might learn some truths about both the abducting parent and the estranged parent too. But some of those truths would probably have been better learned in adulthood.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Does anyone know what happens in the courts when the foreigner is the woman?

I don't know about court procedures in that case, but I've certainly heard my share of horror stories involving foreign wife and Japanese husband. It seems to depend a lot on how much influence the husband's family, especially his mother, has over him (and this being Japan, you can bet that's a lot). Another thing to remember is that the Japanese partner, whether husband or wife, will always have the advantage here.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I feel sorry for Chris Savoie's kids. Another storm is coming.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm glad that this article includes the last paragraph. If the spouse just says those magic words, The Hague will not apply. Those magic words are " I fear domestic violence". That's it! Case closed!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The biggest losers are the children :( The Japanese courts will almost never side with a foreigner over custody. Only in truly exceptional circumstances, and I speak from experience. Unfortunately the mindset is not likely to change anytime soon.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As for the question of a foreign wife and Japanese husband: If they are in japan the Japanese man (or his family) gets preference for custody although, many Japanese fathers are quite happy to walk away and cut all ties. I am divorced with kids in japan and had to fight hand-over-fist to get some sort of visitation with my kids. There was no violence or abuse involved, she just decided she didn't want to be married to a foreigner anymore and disappeared with my kids one Saturdays afternoon while I was surfing. It took me four months to get to see my kids. However, the real kick in the balls is, if she has an accident and becomes incapable of caring for the kids or dies, her parents get custody of my kids. How's that for a slam dunk? My kids have duel citizenship and one of the stipulations of me gaining visitation was, I am not allowed to take the kids out of the country cos she fears I won't bring them back, which is probably true. However, this shows clearly the mentality of Japanese spouses when it comes to hiding their kids in japan. She had no reason to deny me visitation, but did so just for the power-trip.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Disillusioned

Man, that's unbelievable. I just can't imagine what that's like. In any other country that would be tantamount to kidnapping, wouldn't it?

As a fellow surfer, I am particularly outraged that it happened whilst you were having a surf.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The obvious loop hole is clearly going to de-rail most cases but at least now parents can start hammering away in courts

And the Hague should tell Japan its retroactive or bugger off!!

Time for more & BIGGER GAIATSU!!

Although no kids here I hope many parents get to see THEIR kids sooner the better!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As for the question of a foreign wife and Japanese husband: If they are in japan the Japanese man (or his family) gets preference for custody although, many Japanese fathers are quite happy to walk away and cut all ties. I am divorced with kids in japan and had to fight hand-over-fist to get some sort of visitation with my kids. There was no violence or abuse involved, she just decided she didn't want to be married to a foreigner anymore and disappeared with my kids one Saturdays afternoon while I was surfing. It took me four months to get to see my kids. However, the real kick in the balls is, if she has an accident and becomes incapable of caring for the kids or dies, her parents get custody of my kids. How's that for a slam dunk? My kids have duel citizenship and one of the stipulations of me gaining visitation was, I am not allowed to take the kids out of the country cos she fears I won't bring them back, which is probably true. However, this shows clearly the mentality of Japanese spouses when it comes to hiding their kids in japan. She had no reason to deny me visitation, but did so just for the power-trip.

Dude, I'm really sorry you have to go through that. I can totally relate. It's a shame that the country and the system doesn't take a fair approach to this. The law should be in place to protect the kids first and not side with a parent or in this case, usually the Japanese mothers with impunity.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@combinibento

Ever got in an argument with a spouse that had any physical aspect to it? Things getting thrown? People being shoved? Ever yell - legitimately - at your kid in front of your spouse?

I haven't read any other comments yet but this one really caught my attention and I have to answer ALL of the above ("yelled at" - but NOT by me) but I would have stayed in Japan anyway (I am still here) if only our two sons could have been together... They are complete strangers now and we don't even know where his elder brother is... (I still have physical scars on top of the mental ones...) however, at that time, nobody would lft a finger to help - certainly NOT the police...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

what will david aldwinkle say about this, re Japanese name Darou aduwke?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Being separated suddenly from a parent is obviously a brutal thing, and is often poisoned further by illogical feelings of guilt in the child. In cases where one parent has unilaterally cut off the child's communication with the other parent, the escape clause is very likely to be invoked even though little or no risk exists. Not sure that accepting this as a positive step forward is justified.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

She had no reason to deny me visitation, but did so just for the power-trip.

But before that:

I am not allowed to take the kids out of the country cos she fears I won't bring them back, which is probably true.

Yes, I understand that you say that after she already took off with the kids, BUT still, if you are willing to do it now, who is to say you were not willing before?

I will put dollars to donuts that even before she grabbed the kids, you said something to indicate you had such potential.

I could be wrong, but I think the safe bet here is that she did not wake up one day and decide to leave town. My bet is that there was a history of problems and discord before this happened. And that played a huge role in how things went down in the end.

There are two sides to every story, and I am amazed at how often gaijin come to English websites, give their side, get immediate support and belief and meanwhile....the Japanese are accused of racism and bias!

No, anyone who accepts that they don't know others for being gaijin or Japanese, male or female, someone who lets go of stereotypes and bias, knows that attempting to fairly resolve an issue like this between two people is nigh impossible.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

My son was kidnapped by his Japanese mother in January 2013. Although I have worked almost non-stop and spent over $20,000, I still have not seen him - I do not even know where he is. His mother is obviously abusing him by keeping him away from his daddy and by keeping him in hiding. And every day is a pain worrying about his safety and well-being. Still no Japanese authority is doing anything stop this abuse of my now two-year-old son. I cannot imagine the Hague Abduction Convention will make any difference. Obvious abuse by his Japanese mother is being ignored, while her lies about abuse, probably ready to go - why not? - will be accepted as the truth. Although there will be absolutely no evidence, as there never was any abuse, those false claims will be used to prevent enforcement of the convention. Sadly - all too predictable.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

@Chuckles

419Does anyone know what happens in the courts when the foreigner is the woman?

The "Family court" actually DID want to grant me custody of our elder son too but the court "psychiatrist" said that since he had been living alone with his father for the "last three years" the trauma would be too great... Like an idiot, I believed him and decided to leave the older one with his father... my own stupid mistake...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not sure that accepting this as a positive step forward is justified.

Well it's a step forward. It may not achieve that much yet, but at least the problem is being chipped away at. Previously, the complaint was that Japan wasn't even willing to admit there was an issue. Now they've admitted there is an issue, so the next thing to chip away at will be their enforcement of the issue they have admitted exists.

So it's not likely to change the situation yet, but at least it's a step forward.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hey Funny Car! Who are you to cast assumptions of a situation you know nothing about? Yeah, there were problems before that. The problem was, I was not Japanese! She married me because I was not Japanese and divorced me for the same reason after she got her two 'hafu' kids. You know nothing about it, so pull your head in!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Fujiniwa - I feel for you. Get onto CRC Japan (the link I posted above). There is a large community and they are fighting to get victimised fathers back with their kids. If you are living in japan it is not so difficult to find them if you get a lawyer. They can access resident files through the shiakusho (City hall). There are many Japanese lawyers who also disagree with this BS and they are very willing to help. You will find the connections through the website community. However, if you are not living in japan you are plum out of luck! Japan's agreement to join The Hague comes with a stipulation that they will ignore all previous cases of abduction, which leaves you up the creek without a paddle. This whole situation really stinks! If you want to blame anyone, blame Japanese men cos they are either gutless and won't fight or they are losers who will just walk away from their kin. Don't blame the women. They are only doing what their society has taught them to do.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Disillusioned, have you run your case past our govt.? (Assume you are an Aussie) as that's a bit of a raw deal.

Good to finally sign The Hague convention but as many other commenters have said it may amount to nothing because of the last clause, I guess the burden of proof (if any) for DV is not on the Japanese spouse either.. Kind if glad I am not in Japan in this situation, their laws reflect some of their prejudices..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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

And there is the loophole that makes this treaty absolutely worthless! Having read some of these cases online, I remember one Canadian man whose wife set him up to be arrested by the police while she fled to Japan with the kids. This spiteful farewell seems to be quite the norm. How easy is it, for a woman especially, to claim physical abuse? It only needs to be perceived or 'feared' as they put it and the child stays in Japan. Good luck proving otherwise!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What people are describing as a loophole seems to me to be a fundamental safeguard. The interests of the child should be foremost in the deliberations of any court. No child should be 'automatically' returned anywhere, and the court should satisfy itself that they are not placing the child into possible harm. I understand that this could be abused, but only if a court deliberately takes sides in the matter. Unfortunately, that is the nature of international disputes, but it's a little too early to pre-judge the Japanese courts on this matter.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Yeah Austpal, I went to the embassy and was told I was at the mercy of the Japanese legal system, unless I get my kids out of japan, in which case, she cannot do a damn thing about it, but I would not separate my kids from their mother, no matter how much of a trout she is. That would make me no better than the monsters that have created this debacle. As a result, I am here forever and will not let her deny my kids the right to a father in their lives. It's been three years since the divorce and she still holds all the cards and will deny me visitation at a whim. The thing that kills me the most is, my kids love me and love spending time with me, but she just uses them as a control point and does not give a fat wombat's ball bag about their emotional development. I can't do anything about it except say I'm sorry so she will let me see my kids. In Oz ( and other 'developed' nations) a father is given two weekends a month and is responsible to pay 11% of his salary per child per month. In Japan, however, there are no such laws. If she says you must pay me a thousand bucks a month and you see the kids whenever I let you that is all there is to it. My ex actually proposed I pay ¥3,000 per hour, per kid for visitation and child support and, the mullets at the mediation court supported it! A big GAGFed to that! Until Japan formalises joint custody and child support responsibilities The Hague agreement and all the divorced fathers in japan are gonna get royally screwed!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Now they've admitted there is an issue, so the next thing to chip away at will be their enforcement of the issue they have admitted exists.

But do they admit it exists because they really believe it does, or is the admission just lip-service? Looking at that get-out clause, I'd say the latter.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Disillusioned - thank you so much. I will follow your advice. I did get the family and address records, but just a fake address. My Japanese lawyer worked for months and was unable to help. The Japanese family court system will not help a foreign father. Private detectives in Japan are not licensed, could not find my son - they were either useless or it was simply a scam. I am spending as much time in Japan as I can - searching. Although I have connected with many helpful people, so far no results. Family in Japan refused to meet to find a solution. The attorney of the mother refused negotiations and refused to let my son and I meet. No reason given. The Canadian government and Canadian police/Interpol are acting on the case, slowly. I was told similar cases appeared at the same time, carefully timed by the mothers to avoid the Hague Abduction Convention. I am working on moving to Japan so I can better help my son - and I am never giving up!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

My Japanese lawyer worked for months and was unable to help. The Japanese family court system will not help a foreign father. Private detectives in Japan are not licensed, could not find my son - they were either useless or it was simply a scam.

Sadly, you did get scammed. My friend did the same thing, had a crazy wife, very physically abusive and only cared about money. She was said, a child does not need a father, only mother is important. Anyway, my friend spent about 6 grand USD and what did he get, his lawyer advised him, he should just keep on paying the child support, wait a few years until his daughter is in college or an adult and then try to re-establish a relationship with his daughter, at the time, she was 5 years old. They bleed you dry, expect you to pay up, but don't show any results, my friend lunged over the table and tried to choke the lawyer and the lawyer, said, being a brute and forceful won't get you anywhere, but you must show good will and intentions, let her see that you are trying. As of today, he has never seen or heard from his daughter again. We know where she loves, but it's too dangerous to go in that area, because the police know our faces and threatened to arrest either of us, if we both get too close to the child. The system is NOT designed for us foreigners. My friend he just gave up, because we both know the mother is extremely vindictive and I'm sad to say, but I think the child is completely brainwashed by now.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Dis, get onto 60 minutes! Reading a lot of comments here I don't have much faith in Japanese courts or lawyers up there.

Although drastic perhaps shaming Japan in the media (overseas) may make them sit up and take notice...the olympics a few years away and I am sure Japan wants to be seen in a positive light.,,

Good luck to all you guys (and gals) wish you the best.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So sad that this loophole was put in by Japan but its not unexpected, I had an argument over this with my wife years ago can't remember the outcome But the cause was when that Jap mother went back to America to renew her greencard and the authorities arrested her at the air port for child abduction.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Disillusioned

Can I ask something, and I guess it's pretty personal, but did you see any warning signs that this might eventuate, or be a possibility of any sort with you wife? I mean, I assume not, but I'm just curious to know if there were any kinds of suspicions or doubts or marker points where you thought; 'I'd better be careful here?'

I'm happily married to a Japanese woman, but so, I assume, were many of the men who go through this experience and because it seems a little too common I'm just wondering how it plays out?

By all means, no need to respond if you aren't comfortable doing so.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tamarama

I imagine in some cases there are pretty obvious signs there are troubles in a marriage but there are also lots where BAM you come home & the Mrs is gone or there waiting with divorce papers for you to sign & then sayonara.

I even have heard of cases where J-spouses have faxed the foreigners signature & done the divorce without the foreigner even knowing it was done

Best of luck to all those suffering under this IN-HUMAN J-system, its clearing time for the world to publically shame Japan in a real massive way because this is so beyond the pale, so utterly primitive

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I imagine in some cases there are pretty obvious signs there are troubles in a marriage but there are also lots where BAM you come home & the Mrs is gone or there waiting with divorce papers for you to sign & then sayonara.

Just say no. In Japan, 'irreconcilable differences' is not legally a reason that a judge will grant a divorce.

I even have heard of cases where J-spouses have faxed the foreigners signature & done the divorce without the foreigner even knowing it was done

There are pre-emptive measures to ensure that this can't be done (you register a paper at city hall), and you can legally sue after the fact if (s)he does do this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ok, the mods might delete it, but there were some signs, all about money and the insecurity of being an English teacher in Japan with ever decreasing salaries and yearly contracts. However, the master plan was to leave Japan after ten years. She disappeared with the kids at 9.5 years because she didn't want to leave Japan, even though, this was the plan from the outset if our marriage. There was never any real trouble personality wise although, her parents were against our marriage and she was constantly hounded by her father to get divorced. I guess she just obeyed papa and pissed off with the kids. She went home to papa, of course. That could be a bit of advice for anyone wanting to marry a Japanese girl. You don't marry her, you marry her family! I gave a similar thing with my girlfriend at present. Her parents wouldn't accept our plans to marry because they are afraid they will end up supporting my kids from my previous marriage. I shoot you not!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

That could be a bit of advice for anyone wanting to marry a Japanese girl. You don't marry her, you marry her family!

This is something everyone needs to keep in mind, although not only men. Foreign wives find themselves in some pretty unbearable situations, too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There are several sources out there, eg, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3g3g_0r01c and the book 'My Son My Son' that show there is a definite pattern to the abductions - wait 'till husband is occupied, clean out his bank account, abscond, stop the kids from seeing or contacting the father, poison them against him, Japanize them, wiping out their western side completely. Fathers who do manage to contact them notice a rapid deterioration of their English. The police don't want to know. I doubt anything will change.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japanese judicial system when looking at divorce cases blithely overlooks frequency with which Japanese mothers inflict violence on their children.

http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/oita-woman-arrested-over-death-of-7-year-old-son http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/woman-charged-with-strangling-her-8-year-old-daughte

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That Japan even signed the treaty at all was due to gaiatsu, or international pressure. That`s the only way to get anything changed in Japan

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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