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International Child Abduction in Japan

October 16, 2009

On Friday, October 16th, U.S. Ambassador John Roos and ambassadors from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand and Spain urged Japan to resolve a growing number of international child custody disputes.  On October 15th, Japanese police freed an American man accused of abducting his own children. Japanese law currently allows only one divorced parent to act as custodian, and in these cases, the custodial parent is usually the mother. Unfortunately this leaves many dads without parenting time until their children have reached the age of majority.  There are an increasing number of cases, where Japanese mothers return to Japan in order to deny foreign ex-husbands access to their kids. Ambassadors from the countries told Justice Minister Keiko Chiba that Japan should sign an international convention on child abduction and set up ways to allow foreign parents to visit their children. The ambassadors renewed their demands that Japan sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which all their countries have joined. The convention seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the courts in the country where the children originally lived and that the rights of access of both parents are protected. Tokyo has argued that signing the convention may not protect Japanese women and their children from abusive foreign husbands, but Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said that Japan is considering signing the convention. "Each country has different views on parenting, and we are studying how to resolve the issue," Okada said.

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