Archive for June, 2011

Left Behind Parents Photo Project

Posted on June 22, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Clive France has started a photo project. He intends to photograph as many left behind parents in Japan as possible. He just started this project but you can see his work in progress if you follow the link:  Left-Behind-Parent Photo Project

Please contact Clive if you want to be part of the project. He can be reached through Facebook or at fph10@gol.com

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H.R. 3240 International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009

Posted on June 21, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Hague Convention | Tags: , , , , , , , |

H.R. 3240 International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009, if passed will impose economic and security sanctions on non-compliant countries. To read the report click  HR 3240 then download the PDF.

The purposes of this Act are to:

(1) protect United States children from the harmful effects of international child abduction and to protect the right of children to exercise parental access with their parents in a safe and predictable way, wherever located;

(2) provide parents, their advocates, and judges the information they need to enhance the resolution of family disputes through established legal procedures, the tools for assessing the risk of wrongful removal and retention of children, and the practical means for overcoming obstacles to recovering abducted children;

(3) establish effective mechanisms to provide assistance to and aggressive advocacy on behalf of parents whose children have been abducted from the United States to a foreign country, from a foreign country to the United States, and on behalf of military parents stationed abroad;

(4) promote an international consensus that the best interests of children are of paramount importance in matters relating to their custody, and that it is in the best interest of a child to have issues of custody determined in the State of their habitual residence immediately prior to the abduction;

(5) provide the necessary training for military officials and training and assistance to military families to address the unique circumstances of the resolution of child custody disputes which occur abroad, or occur when a parent is serving abroad;

(6) facilitate the creation and effective implementation of international mechanisms, particularly the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal and retention; and

(7) facilitate the compliance of the United States with reciprocal obligations contained in the Hague Convention regarding children wrongfully removed to or retained in the United States.

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Support network backs Japanese-Filipino kids abandoned by fathers

Posted on June 21, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , |

Japan Times By ASHLEY THOMPSON

We regularly receive emails from Japanese-Filipinos searching for their Japanese fathers. Many of these adults were abandoned as children, along with their Filipino mothers, while others were forced to leave Japan for various reasons.

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Though the circumstances are different for each family, many of these children (and mothers) lack the support of the father (financial or otherwise). So, in answer to these inquiries, the following nonprofit organizations may be of help:

The Citizens’ Network for Japanese-Filipino Children primarily offers support to abandoned Japanese-Filipino children (JFC). Their services include locating fathers within Japan and providing legal assistance, in cooperation with the JFC Lawyers Association, with issues such as paternal financial support and acquisition of Japanese nationality.

JFCNet also holds regular seminars and provides informative publications.

In the Philippines, JFCNet offers services for JFC and their mothers at the Maligaya House including a scholarship program for children, legal and psychological counseling, Japanese language classes and workshops, a research and publication program, and an advocacy and networking program.

An important point to note, says JFCNet, is that JFC born out of wedlock can acquire Japanese nationality if their Japanese father legally recognizes them before their 20th birthday, even if the JFC resides outside Japan.

For more information or to receive help from the Citizens’ Network for Japanese-Filipino Children, please visit or contact them in Japan at: JFCNet Tokyo Office, Nishishinjuku High-Home 206, Nishishinjuku 4-16-2, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo 160-0023. Email: jfcnet@jca.apc.org. Telephone/fax: (050) 3328-0143.

In the Philippines: Maligaya House, 18-A Cabezas Street, Project 4, Quezon City, Metro Manila, 1109 Philippines. Email: maligayahouse@gmail.com. Telephone/fax: (+63) (2) 913-8913.

JFCNet services are offered in Tagalog, English and Japanese.

The Center for Japanese-Filipino Families (CJFF) is a sister organization of JFCNet, supported by the United Church of Christ in Japan, United Church of Canada and the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity, or EMS, of Germany.

They offer a variety of services, which include: temporary housing; school and employment opportunities for JFC who travel to Japan to locate their fathers; counseling services; cultural activities; psychological support and related services, particularly for those unable to locate their fathers; regular workshops for JFC; and a youth development program.

For more information about CJFF, you can find their website at youthjapan.net/cjff.html.

Or, contact CJFF at: CJFF, Room 32, Japan Christian Center, 2-3-18 Nishi Waseda, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo 151-0069. Email: cjffinfo@gmail.com.

The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN) is “a nongovernment development organization created on February 6, 1996, to assist Filipino women migrants in Japan and their Japanese-Filipino children (JFC) in the promotion and protection of their human rights and welfare.”

Similar to the organizations mentioned above, DAWN provides a wide range of services for JFC and their mothers, including counseling, travel assistance to and from Japan in necessary cases, temporary shelter, health care assistance, educational support and legal help.

DAWN also works to provide other community services and opportunities to rehabilitate women and their children. Their website is at www.dawnphil.org

You can also visit or contact DAWN at: DAWN-Philippines, Room 514, Don Santiago Building, 1344 Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila, Philippines 1000. Telephone: (+63) (2) 526-9098. Fax: (632) 526-9101. Email: dawnphil@i-next.net.

For DAWN-Japan, email dawnjapan@hotmail.com

The Batis Center for Women, located in the Philippines, also assists women and their Japanese-Filipino children. Most of the cases they handle involve “returned women migrant workers from Japan with young children who have been abandoned or are separated from their Japanese husbands or partners.”

The Batis Center primarily works to rehabilitate women and children after they’ve returned from Japan, and their services cover counseling, education, financial assistance, advocacy, legal assistance, and health and medical support, among others.

Additionally, they partner with Batis-YOGHI, a youth organization devoted to providing ongoing support to JFC.

To contact The Batis Center, email batis@pacific.net.ph or call (+63) (2) 925-7843. You can contact Batis-YOGHI via the same email and phone number — ask for Lala Javier.

The Batis Center also has a regularly updated Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Batis-Center-for-Women/136570526371270.

If you know of any other organizations or services, especially any located in Japan, that provide support of any kind to Japanese-Filipino children, please email us.

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Volunteer firefighters need care / Experts will treat PTSD, survivor’s guilt

Posted on June 21, 2011. Filed under: mental health | Tags: , , , , |

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government will dispatch mental health experts to the three prefectures worst hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami to provide counseling for voluntary firefighters who may have been traumatized when they responded to the disaster.

In the face of imminent tsunami, many volunteers did such dangerous work as trying to manually close floodgates and leading people to safety.

Previously, mental health counseling had been provided only to professional firefighters, but the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has decided to offer counseling to volunteers, too.

The experts will counsel the members of the local volunteer firefighting associations in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures for such problems as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In the three prefectures, a total of 249 voluntary firefighters died or went missing in the disaster.

Volunteer firefighters usually are ordinary citizens who help extinguish fires and provide logistical support to their local fire departments. They also participate in local disaster management activities.

They are regarded as part-time special local public servants.

In the event of a large-scale disaster, volunteer firefighters work to limit disaster damage by, for example, evacuating residents and closing floodgates.

According to the agency, as of April 2010, municipal governments across the nation had 2,275 teams of local volunteer firefighters with a total membership of about 883,000.

The agency will dispatch psychiatrists and clinical psychotherapists belonging to its mental health support team for emergencies, which was established in 2003.

The team has dispatched experts 30 times for serious accidents and disasters, including the train derailment on JR West’s Fukuchiyama Line in 2005.

In the three disaster-hit prefectures, there are about 80,000 local volunteer firefighters in total. In Iwate Prefecture, 116 volunteer firefighters died or went missing, the highest number among the three prefectures.

In Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, a total of 27 professional firefighters died or went missing. Thirty police officers belonging to the prefectural police forces were killed or went missing.

In Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, 50 volunteer firefighters died while trying to evacuate residents after a tsunami warning was issued.

In the prefecture’s Iwaizumicho, four volunteer firefighters narrowly survived when they stayed on a flood barrier until just before the tsunami struck, trying to manually close a floodgate that would not close mechanically.

Since the disaster, local volunteer fighters have shown symptoms of what is known as critical incident stress.

And some are reportedly suffering from survivor’s guilt after other volunteers died in the disaster. Others are said to feel they can no longer work as volunteer firefighters due to strong fears of tsunami.

The agency feared that unless the volunteers receive counseling, they may develop PTSD.

The experts will inquire about such things as sleeping problems, and introduce the volunteers to medical institutions specializing in their problems if necessary.

An official of the agency’s Disaster Management Division said: “This disaster is unprecedented in terms of the large number of local volunteer firefighters affected.

“It [counseling] is necessary because they were exposed to so much danger.”

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Porsche SUV with 3-year-old behind wheel slams into supermarket

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Abuse Neglect Death | Tags: , , , , |

An SUV is seen after backing into a supermarket with a 3-year-old behind the wheel in Nishinari Ward, Osaka, on June 17. (Mainichi)

An SUV is seen after backing into a supermarket with a 3-year-old behind the wheel in Nishinari Ward, Osaka, on June 17. (Mainichi)

OSAKA — A Porsche SUV that apparently had a 3-year-old girl behind the wheel rammed into a supermarket here and left a woman injured after suddenly moving in reverse, police said.

According to police, the SUV was parked in a lot next to a supermarket in Osaka’s Nishinari Ward when it abruptly began moving in reverse at around 3:45 p.m. on June 17, knocking down the fence of the parking lot and ramming into the wall of the supermarket. When police officers rushed to the scene, the girl reportedly was with her 35-year-old mother and seemed bewildered.

A 68-year-old female employee of the supermarket who was standing by the fence fell and sustained light injuries to her head and other parts of her body.

The 3-year-old girl was found alone inside the vehicle, and investigators suspect that she caused the car to move. She was not injured.

According to the Nishinari Police Station, the girl was brought to the supermarket by her mother. The mother is quoted as telling investigators that when she arrived at the supermarket, she left her daughter inside the vehicle because she was acting peevish. She told police that she had locked the car with the engine running, with the shift lever in the parking gear. She said she did not remember if she had applied the parking brake. The vehicle had automatic transmission.

Click here for the original Japanese story

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8-year-old boy falls to his death in Fukuoka

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Abuse Neglect Death | Tags: , , , , |

FUKUOKA — Japan Today

An 8-year-old boy fell to his death from the balcony of his 13th-floor apartment in Fukuoka on Saturday, police said Monday. According to police, the incident occurred just prior to 7 p.m.

Police said they received an emergency call from the apartment’s adult tenant, saying the child had fallen from the balcony. The boy, identified Yuki Shudo, was confirmed dead at the hospital a short time later.

Police said the boy had been left alone in the apartment, and apparently had managed to climb over the 1-meter-high balcony railing.

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Dispel concerns before signing Hague Convention

Posted on June 16, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Domestic Violence (DV), Hague Convention, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The Yomiuri Shimbun

When international marriages fall apart, how should cross-border disputes over child custody be handled?

The government is in the process of formulating legislation in preparation for joining the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets international rules for settling such disputes.

If Japan becomes a signatory to the convention, perhaps as soon as next year, it should be lauded as a step forward. However, in drawing up the legislation, the government must take care to ensure the rights of Japanese people are not being unilaterally compromised.

The treaty bans a parent from taking overseas a child aged less than 16 without the other parent’s permission after their marriage fails.

If a parent demands the return of a child taken without permission from their country of residence, signatory countries are obliged in principle to help resolve the issue.

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Japan being urged to join

This is based on the thinking that it is desirable to settle custody disputes in courts in the country of original residence. More than 80 nations have signed the convention. The United States and European countries have urged Japan to join.

About 100 cases have been reported in the United States in which divorced Japanese spouses returned to their homeland with their children. Because Japan is not a signatory to the convention, the foreign parents find it difficult to see their children, let alone take them back to their own country.

Because of this, U.S. and European judicial authorities ban divorced Japanese parents from taking their children home. Japanese mothers who return home with their kids without the permission of their former husbands are often regarded as “abductors” in these countries.

This problem goes both ways: If children with a Japanese parent are taken overseas without permission, the Japanese parent cannot expect to get any help from the country of their former husband or wife.

If Japan joins the treaty, these disputes will be settled by the two countries concerned based on international rules.

The treaty stipulates nations can refuse to return children if they have been physically or mentally abused, and in some other circumstances. But it makes no mention of domestic violence between spouses.

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Domestic violence fears

Japan had long resisted joining the pact because many Japanese mothers had returned home with their children after being violently abused by their former foreign husbands. These mothers have strong concerns about allowing their children to return to such an environment.

The procedure to decide whether to return a child or children starts at a court in the country where they reside. The government is considering incorporating into a related bill the right to refuse a request to return a child if there are fears they could become victims of domestic violence. This is a sensible move.

After signing the treaty, the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for specifying the whereabouts of children brought to Japan and helping with court trial procedures. This will involve domestic administrative work the ministry is not accustomed to doing. Cooperation among government organs to smooth the process will be indispensable.

Many Japanese mothers feel anxious that trials over custodial rights will be held at a court in their child’s original country of residence. Japanese diplomatic missions abroad will need to introduce them to local lawyers and provide other support.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 14, 2011)

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Kan demands N Korea reinvestigate abductions by Sept

Posted on June 12, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction | Tags: , , , , , |

Friday 10th June, 03:05 PM JST      TOKYO         Japan Today

Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday reiterated a call for North Korea to reinvestigate the whereabouts of Japanese abductees by September, while instructing his ministers to consider toughening sanctions against Pyongyang if it fails to do so. ‘‘This is a problem that concerns human rights and people’s lives, so I am fully resolved to work on it,’’ he said at a meeting of the government panel on the abduction issue, according to a participant.

North Korea has not launched a reinvestigation even though the Japanese government decided last November on eight-point guidelines to deal with the matter, including the need for such a move and tougher sanctions against Pyongyang. ‘‘I’m very disappointed as we haven’t had tangible progress,’’ Kan was quoted as saying at the meeting.

During the meeting, he directed that an environment be prepared for a dialogue with North Korea, for international cooperation to be beefed up, and for intelligence gathering and analysis to be strengthened, according to Kansei Nakano, minister in charge of abduction issues.

The two countries agreed at working-level talks in August 2008 to establish a commission to reinvestigate the whereabouts of those North Korea says were already dead after they were abducted or had never entered the country.

But after Yasuo Fukuda announced his resignation as Japanese prime minister in September that year, North Korea conveyed to Japan that it had postponed establishing the commission.

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Hague treaty seeks to balance rights of kids, parents

Posted on June 7, 2011. Filed under: Hague Convention | Tags: , , , |

Staff writer Japan Times

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration said in May it would establish legislation as part of preparations for Japan joining an international convention to prevent cross-border abductions of children by their parents.

Despite international pressure to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Japan had been reluctant amid strong opposition from politicians in the ruling and opposition parties, experts and Japanese mothers who took their children to Japan after failed international marriages.

Japan’s decision was welcomed by the international community, but it is still unclear whether the country will actually be able to sign the treaty anytime soon.

What does the treaty entail?

The Hague treaty aims “to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in” a member state. The treaty covers children up to age 15.

A typical example of what the treaty tries to address would be a case in which an international marriage has failed and one of the spouses takes offspring out of the country where the child has been living without the consent of the other parent. Such a physical removal may also be in defiance of a court custody decision, such as in cases of divorce when both estranged spouses have certain custody and visitation rights.

If offspring are spirited away from a country, the parent who thus lost custody would file an abduction complaint with the government, or “central authority” that handles such matters.

If both the nation that the offspring are removed from and the one they are taken to are Hague signatories, the designated central authorities of the two nations would seek to ensure the safe return of the child to its “habitual residence.”

But if the nation where offspring are taken to is not a member of the treaty, such as Japan, it is not obliged to hand over the offspring. This can cause bilateral friction on a political level, and also lead to charges of felony abduction being leveled at the parent who took the child or children away.

As of April, the treaty had 85 signatories, including Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain. Of the Group of Eight countries, only Japan and Russia have refused to join.

What prompted Japan to move toward joining the Hague treaty?

Although not the first child abduction case involving a Japanese parent, an incident in September 2009 brought Japan’s stance on the issue into the international spotlight.

Christopher Savoie of Tennessee came to Japan to reclaim his children from his Japanese ex-wife, who had brought them to the country without permission.

Savoie was arrested by Japanese police for allegedly attempting to “kidnap” minors, but prosecutors didn’t file criminal charges against him. The case was widely reported by both the foreign and Japanese media and became a bilateral diplomatic headache.

International pressure to sign the Hague treaty has increased since then.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there are 100 cases involving Japanese spouses who took their children to Japan from the U.S., 38 who brought offspring here from the U.K., 37 from Canada and 30 from France. But these are just the numbers reported to the ministry. The actual number is believed to be higher and to stretch back many years.

Why has Japan been reluctant to sign the treaty?

The government feared that Japanese mothers who claimed to have been victims of domestic violence would be forced to return their children to the abusive environments they fled from.

“If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, (my child would) be forced to live with an abusive father and be exposed to violence again,” said a women who attended a government panel discussion on the Hague treaty in March. “And I will become a (declared) criminal.”

The Hague treaty in principle is geared toward returning offspring to their country of habitual residence.

Cultural and legal differences have also been noted, as many Western countries have a joint-custody system. Japan uses a system that grants sole custody, usually to the mother.

Are there circumstances under which a child is not returned to the country of residence?

-Article 13 also says a state is not obligated to return a child if “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”

But experts have pointed out that the clause is vague and opponents argue that it does not include abuse against mothers.

According to the data collected by the Hague Conference on Private International Law released in 2008, only 20 percent of all global return applications were either rejected or judicially refused.

How will Japan address the strong concern about cases of domestic violence?

The outline of a draft bill approved by the Cabinet stipulates that the return of the child will be denied if the child has experienced physical or verbal abuse “and is in danger of being subjected to further abuse if returned to its habitual residence.”

In addition, the child will not be returned if the spouse has been the victim of “violence that caused the child to suffer from psychological trauma” and that the parent was in danger of further abuse if he or she returns with the child back to the country the offspring was taken from.

Experts, however, noted that the conditions for rejecting the return are extremely strict.

“The draft lists various conditions, not making it easy for the spouse to claim domestic violence to make sure that the child would not be returned,” attorney Mikiko Otani said. “And the parent would also need to prove that there was domestic violence.”

What are the positive aspects of Japan joining the treaty?

There are Japanese parents whose children have been taken away to another country by their ex-spouses. Japan, not being party to the treaty, has been powerless to rectify these situations.

Otani, an expert on family law, pointed out that there are many cases in which the ex-spouse is from a member country of the convention and that government has the responsibility to deal with these international parental kidnapping cases.

In Japan, the responsibility falls on the individual because Tokyo has not signed the treaty.

Otani also expressed concern that if Japan continues to delay joining the treaty, other member states will take harsher measures.

In the U.S., for example, several Japanese mothers are on the FBI website, wanted for “parental kidnapping.”

“I think it comes down to the fact that the Hague treaty is the active international rule,” Otani said. “If Japan refuses to join the convention, all the (member states) can do is make sure that the children cannot be taken out of their countries. They already have a tendency to do so, but I think they will make it even harder for the children to leave.”

In many cases, court orders are issued ordering the child not to leave the country.

Does this mean that Japan will immediately conclude the convention?

No. Even if the Japan signs the treaty, it needs Diet ratification. Related bills must also be drafted and passed.

According to the draft legislation, the “central authority” will be the Foreign Ministry, which will be in charge of overseeing cases related to the Hague treaty, including locating abducted children, taking measures to prevent child abuse and advising parents on the voluntary return of children.

But there is still strong domestic opposition among the public, as well as in both the ruling and opposition camps, and it is unclear how soon Japan will be able to conclude the treaty and enact related domestic laws.

If Japan joins the treaty, would it apply to current cases?

No. The treaty will only apply to cases that are brought against Japan after it signs the Hague Convention. Experts say it will be up to the government to decide how to handle the cases that occurred before Japan signs the treaty.

Otani pointed out that there were cases in which the mothers eventually want their children to make the most of their dual nationality, such as visiting the country they were taken away from, but can’t for various reasons, including the mother’s fear of being arrested if she were to accompany the offspring to a nation where she is listed as a fugitive.

“It may be impossible to resolve all cases or return the children, but there may be some fathers who would just be happy to be able to have access to their children,” Otani said. “The benefits of these children are being robbed . . . and I think that it is necessary to establish a (bilateral) scheme for those who want to resolve their case so that the children” can visit both countries freely.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to hodobu@japantimes.co.jp
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Children First making a difference

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , |

Children First is making a difference. Become part of this new NPO and help protect children’s rights. Becoming a member is free and easy. Just go to www.childrenfirst.jp and sign up. You can also sign the Children First pledge (below). You can become a member no matter where you live. We can all do a little bit more to protect children.

“To all children,
    I pledge
            To always show you compassion,
            To ensure your basic physical and psychological needs,
            To shelter you from violence,
            To defend your rights, and
            To be a positive role model.
    In short, I pledge that the happiness and welfare of all children will be my top priority.
                     
                                             With love,         A Former Child.”
 

We are making strides to change the laws so children’s rights are a top priority for everyone.

One voice can hardly be heard. Ten thousand voices can hardly be ignored. Add your voice to Children First today.

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Child abduction convention

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Hague Convention | Tags: , , , , , |

Monday, June 6, 2011 Japan Times

The Kan Cabinet on May 20 endorsed a policy of Japan joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets procedures for settling cross-border child custody disputes.

The administration hopes to submit related bills and a request for approval of Japan’s joining the convention to the Diet by the end of 2011. If Japan joins the convention, it will not be applied retroactively.

A total of 84 countries, mainly in the Americas and Europe, are parties to the convention, which went into effect in 1983. Among the Group of Eight industrialized countries, Japan and Russia have not joined the convention. The United States and European countries have urged Japan to join, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced Japan’s decision during a G8 summit held in Deauville, France, on May 26-27.

The convention is typically applied to cases in which a divorced parent removes his or her child under the age of 16 from his or her country of habitual residence and the left-behind parent requests the child’s return, alleging that he or she has been wrongfully removed.

Under the convention, the left-behind parent makes the request through his or her country’s “central authority” to the central authority of the abductor parent’s country.

The central authority of the abductor parent’s country has a legal obligation to locate the child and take all appropriate measures to obtain the voluntary return of the child. The primary aim of the convention is to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed from their country of habitual residence.

Exceptions to this rule include when there is a preponderance of evidence that the left-behind parent had consented to the removal of the child; when there is a preponderance of evidence that the left-behind parent was not exercising custodial rights at the time of removal; or when there is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.

A court in the abductor parent’s country decides whether the child should be returned if the two parents fail to agree on a voluntary return of the child.

Once it is decided where the child will live, there is another round of court proceedings in that country to determine who has parental authority. As countries have differing systems for determining this, resolution of the issues can be difficult.

Roughly 1,300 requests for the return of children are filed worldwide annually.

According to data released in 2010 by the Netherlands-based convention secretariat, children were returned voluntarily without the involvement of courts in 45 percent of the cases; children were returned on the basis of court orders in 30 percent of the cases; and courts rejected requests for the return of children in 20 percent of the cases.

Referring to the Kan administration’s decision to join the convention, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, “It is desirable for our country to be consistent with international standards.”

Because the number of international divorces involving Japanese nationals is on the rise, the decision that Japan should join the same legal framework as other countries is understandable.

According to the health and welfare ministry’s population dynamics survey, there were some 4,100 international marriages involving Japanese nationals in 1965. This number topped 10,000 in 1983 and reached a peak of 44,701 in 2006. After that, it started to fall, dropping to 34,393 in 2009.

The number of international divorces involving Japanese nationals topped 10,000 in 1998. It leveled off at around 15,000 from 2002 to 2005, but climbed to 19,404 in 2009.

Many Japanese mothers allege that they had no alternative but to take their children and return to Japan in order to escape domestic violence.

Such allegations have made the Japanese government hesitate to join the convention, but as long as Japan is not a party to the convention, it cannot legally settle these cases or pursue cases in which non-Japanese parents have removed their children from their Japanese homes and left the country.

In working out related domestic bills, the general principle for the government and the Diet should be to give priority to protecting the well-being of the children involved.

Under the outline of the domestic bills, the Foreign Ministry would serve as the central authority for locating children who have been removed wrongfully by one parent and for working toward their voluntary return.

Parents who have removed their children from foreign countries would be able to refuse to return the children if they could prove that they or their children were subjected to domestic violence, or that they faced criminal prosecution in the country where they formerly resided.

Some Japanese parents harbor concerns about Japan joining the convention. They may be worried about the possibility of being separated from their children or about how to establish that they are victims of domestic violence in the event that they have to go to court. The government should consider how to help parents who may become involved in child-custody disputes.

As Mr. Kenji Utsunomiya, head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said, the government should enumerate possible issues and have experts fully discuss them from the viewpoint of protecting the well-being and interests of children. It also should provide necessary information and support to Japanese parents living abroad.

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