FINALLY! Japan will announce its plan next week (May 2011) to sign the Convention that deals with international child custody disputes. I should say that this is a very positive step in the right direction for Japan in the international community but I will wait for the end result.

It was reported that:

Some critics in Japan have raised concerns over joining The Hague Convention, saying it could endanger Japanese parents and their children who have fled abusive relationships.

The government plans to dispatch officials to a special committee meeting of The Hague Conference on Private International Law in June and have them investigate how child custody is treated in member countries of the pact.

To double down on my wait and see attitude, something of particular interest is:

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) panel specializing on the matter plans to ask the government to ensure that parents who brought their children out of their countries of residence after divorce will not have criminal charges filed against them, and that the domestic definition of child abuse will be employed when such acts are brought into question.

Now if you wonder why I have not jumped on the “this is great news” bandwagon and swallowed the latest news hook, line and sinker, let me now present the following:

  1. It is important to note that non-Japanese spouses that have lost a child or children to parental abduction prior to Japan signing the Hague Convention (if or when they sign),  will need for the treaty to be retroactive in order to one, have any possibility of criminal charges or lawsuits being filed (if that is what the former-spouse or a country that issued an international arrest warrant seeks). The DPJ’s worry!
  2. This puts a great deal of pressure on Japan to create a plan that addresses the myriad of children that have been abducted to Japan prior to the signing of the Hague Convention.
  3. Under the Hague Convention a non-Japanese parent will have accessibility to their children located in Japan even if the child(ren) are not returned to the foreign-court appointed custodial parent. This basically means, that the non-Japanese parent can request visitation rights once Japan signs the Hague Convention.

Other things to watch during the series of debates sure to follow is whether child support laws, tax laws, child and spousal abuse laws and laws regarding the rights of foreign residents will change.

[Via Japan Today’s repost of Japan Inc.’s Terrie Lloyd’s article]

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan, they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back—something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero repatriations of abducted children from international marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary and their wish to maintain 19th century customs in the face of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20 years now to be “studying” the issue. That’s Japan-speak for “we’re not interested in making any changes.” Click here for more.

Click here for previous BT posts regarding parental kidnapping and child custody laws in Japan.

I guess the bottom line is:

A winning diplomatic strategy will need teeth to make a difference for everyone involved. “The mantra now is ‘Japan sign the Hague,’ but that’s not enough,” U.S. Representative Chris Smith said during a recent trip to Tokyo.

As always, I look forward to your comments.