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The Japanese Government has decided that it will become a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, according to news reports.
Tokyo-based online newspaper Japan Today reported that Japan will develop domestic laws in line with the Convention, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of abducted children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.
There has been growing frustration amongst international family lawyers over cases where Japanese parents bring a child to Japan without the consent of the other parent in disregard to judicial custody decisions in other countries.
However it may take some time to prepare the ground before Japan can ratify the treaty as the Japanese legal system differs significantly from the legal systems in European and US jurisdictions.
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.
International family lawyer Richard Crouch of Crouch & Crouch in Arlington, Virginia said: "People who work with Japanese abduction cases are cautious about assuming that it will actually happen and that the treaty will be implemented effectively. Still, we are glad to hear any news of it. This is one of several huge, interrelated changes that would have to happen to give Japan a system for continuing family life as normally as possible after divorce."
Japan and Russia are the only two countries in the G8 industrialized nations that are not a party to the Hague Convention.
For further reading, see piece in International Family Law, Child Abduction in Japan by Mikiko Okani,  IFL 255.
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