US House of Representatives calls on Japan to address child abductions

05 OCT 2010

JapanThe US House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling on the Government of Japan to address the problem of abduction of US citizen children to Japan.

The resolution also calls on Japan "to work closely with the US Government to return these children to their custodial parent or to the original jurisdiction for a custody determination in the United States, to provide left-behind parents immediate access to their children, and to adopt without delay the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction".

Since 1994, the Office of Children's Issues (OCI) at the US Department of State has opened over 214 cases involving 300 US citizen children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan. As of last month, the OCI had 95 open cases involving 136 United States citizen children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan;

According to the House of Representatives, Japan has never issued and enforced a legal decision to return an abducted child to the United States.

The Representatives are particularly frustrated by the fact that Japan has not prosecuted an abducting parent when that abducted the child into Japan, but has prosecuted cases of foreign nationals removing Japanese children from Japan.

However, Japanese law does not permit joint child custody by separate parents and in cases of divorce, the couple must decide who gets custody of the child, or the court decides.

In his International Family Law opinion piece last week David Hodson explained: "Under Japanese law, only one parent is given parental authority which then gives exclusive entitlement to decide all issues regarding the child including location of residence. There is no statutory visitation or contact entitlement to the other parent who has almost no say in the child's subsequent upbringing such as education, health, adoption etc. There are no or minimal joint or shared parental residency arrangements.

"Japan is not a member of the Hague Convention and is unlikely to join soon, contrary to some expectations."

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