This week I read Japan Today which reported positive news about Japan and its apparent move to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The article provides in part:
“Two weeks ago, the Japanese government made a notable announcement that may make Japan more compatible with the legal conventions used internationally, and will be of particular benefit to non-Japanese spouses of Japanese. The announcement was that by 2010, Japan would sign the the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international legal construct that attempts to deal with the thorny issue of court jurisdiction when children of international marriages are moved cross-border, often by a parent trying to thwart a court ruling in the previous jurisdiction.
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.”
Regardless of the reason for this sudden shift in potential policy, it is certainly a welcome change for everyone around the world and especially those parents who have a child with a Japanese citizen. Unfortunately for parents of children who have already been abducted to Japan, this will provide little sense of relief. Any provisions to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction would not apply to child abductions which occurred prior to ratification. Nonetheless, Article 21 of the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction does establish and enforce rights and rules for child visitation. Unfortunately, even assuming the Japanese government does ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it will certainly require a monumental change by the Japanese Court system!
Article 21 provides as follows:
An application to make arrangements for organising or securing the effective exercise of rights of access may be presented to the Central Authorities of the Contracting States in the same way as an application for the return of a child. The Central Authorities are bound by the obligations of co-operation which are set forth in Article 7 to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights and the fulfilment of any conditions to which the exercise of those rights may be subject. The Central Authorities shall take steps to remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to the exercise of such rights.
The Central Authorities, either directly or through intermediaries, may initiate or assist in the institution of proceedings with a view to organising or protecting these rights and securing respect for the conditions to which the exercise of these rights may be subject.”
A link to the full text of the convention is as follows: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=24
We will wait and see what Japan decided to do in the following weeks. Hopefully it will be good news for everyone.