Anyone in Bridgeport who follows family law in the news knows that Japan has earned a bad reputation among American fathers and mothers who were formerly married to Japanese spouses. For years, the United States and numerous European countries have pushed the Japanese government to sign The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a treaty that forces governments to respect other countries’ parenting plans and tries to resolve international child custody disputes. Finally, the Japanese government has agreed and will start enforcing the treaty on April 1.
Prior to signing the Hague Convention earlier in the week, Japan was notorious for preventing American mothers and fathers from accessing their half-Japanese children, even if the only reason why the children were in Japan was because the Japanese parent had taken them in violation of an American parenting plan. Either the Japanese government would prevent parents from seeing their children or it would refuse to send children back to their American parents.
With close to 20,000 binational marriages involving one Japanese spouse breaking up each year, there has long been a risk that non-Japanese parents would be cut off from their children. Though the government has already signed the Hague Convention, it will not go into effect until April 1. Moreover, all international custody disputes in place prior to April 1 will not fall under the convention. The government will help American parents set up meetings with their children, however, if asked.
The Supreme Court of Japan has established guidelines on how these cases will be handled, but it also expects that most international custody disputes will be dealt with out of court.