Throughout my career as a family law attorney I have encountered the issue of Parental Child Abduction more than I wish to admit. Parental Child Abduction occurs when one parent conceals, and or removes a child from their home jurisdiction without the consent of the other parent. If this occurs within the boarders of the United States there are laws to protect both the children’s and the parents rights. When law enforcement is involved you should expect that the children will quickly located. However, when International Parental Child Abduction occurs and the children are absconded to a foreign land, the chances of reunification can become extremely complicated if not impossible.
Recently events occurring in the world of International Parental Abduction and the country of Japan have been in the spotlight. Japan is not signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and remains the only first world nation which refuses to join. The Hague Convention was formed for the express purpose to provide an expeditious method for the prompt return of an abducted child from from one member nation to another member nation. The purpose of the Hague Abduction Convention is to preserve the existing court order and custody arrangement. While the Hague Convention may not be the perfect solution, it is a line of defense for the Left Behind Parent. Since Japan is not a member nation there is no working framework to return an abducted child from Japan to another country. Unfortunately for American parents, the Japanese courts have been at best, reluctant, to return an abducted child to the United States despite a court order from an American court to do so.
The United States Department of State website provides in part,
“…in cases of international parental child abduction, foreign parents are greatly disadvantaged in Japanese courts, both in terms of obtaining the return of children to the United States, and in achieving any kind of enforceable visitation rights in Japan. The Department of State is not aware of any case in which a child taken from the United States by one parent has been ordered returned to the United States by Japanese courts, even when the left-behind parent has a United States child custody decree.”
International Parental Abduction is a terrible situation and can often render a Left Behind Parent helpless. They are faced with the prospect of losing custody of their child forever if the Japanese parent returns to Japan.
So, what is an American parent to do when a Japanese parent is threatening to return to Japan with the child or children?
As an attorney representing a parent that is faced with the possible abduction of a child to Japan it is imperative for me to plan a strategy to immediately get into court and educate the judge. Many judges are not aware that Japan is not a party to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This can and has been shown to sometimes lead to bad decision making. If an American parent is faced with the possible abduction of their child by a Japanese Parent, making sure the judge is fully informed of his obligations under the law must be the focus of our petition.
Historically judges may choose to order a Japanese parent to post a bond if they wish to vacation with the children in Japan. A bond however has been shown to be useless time and time again. No amount can replace the love of a parent / child relationship. No amount can cover possible costs when faced with retaining a Japanese attorney to attempt to litigate the matter in Japan. As set forth above, the United States Department of State is not aware of any case where the child was successfully returned to America. It never happens!! Posting a bond may suffice if the parent is returning to a Hague Signatory nation. Since Japan is not a member nation a bond will never suffice as a safeguard for the non-Japanese parent.
I have found that Japanese parents typically argue to the court that they have significant ties to the community in the United States and pose no flight risk. There are many reports of Japanese abducting parents stating time and time again that they promise to return after a short trip to see Grandma, never to be seen again. We have to respond and demonstrate to the courts successfully that the Japanese parent does not have significant ties. There are a number of methods to demonstrate their lack of connection by producing relevant evidence. Another safeguard is to request that the court order the Japanese parent to surrender both the American and Japanese passports. Unfortunately, there are again numerous reports of the local Japanese Embassy and Consulates issuing “emergency” passports to abducting Japanese Parents. The American parent should also inform the local airport authorities of the situation and provide a detailed description of the child or children along with any recent court orders. If the Japanese parent is determined to return to Japan then it is vital to prevent the children from boarding the airplane. Once the plane has departed the Left Behind Parent is in for the fight of their life!
Recently the United States House of Representatives, in H. Res. 1326 as well as a coalition of Ambassadors to Japan have stepped forward and condemned Japan for it’s lack of action when a citizen of Japan breaks International Law by parentally abducting a child.
“…the Government of Japan has refused to prosecute an abducting parent or relative criminally when that parent or relative abducts the child into Japan;”
“the Ambassadors to Japan of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Charges d’Affaires ad interim of Canada and Spain, and the Deputy Head of Mission of Italy, called on Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, submitted their concerns over the increase in inter- national parental abduction cases involving Japan and affecting their nationals, and again urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention;”
The country of France is also in process of issuing condemnation through their senates special session.
“Japan does not punish the illicit transfer of children and it has not signed the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. “
My hope is that the nation of Japan will become a party to the Hague Convention and allow all left behind parents access to their abducted children immediately. If you are in an international marriage or relationship it is vital that you seek legal advice regarding the custody of your child if the other parent wants to return to his or her homeland without your consent.
For further assistance please contact Attorney Keith F. Simpson of the Law Offices of Keith F. Simpson, A Professional Corporation
http://travel.state.gov, http://www.senat.fr, & The Japan Children’s Rights Network – http://www.crnjapan.net