Child care left undecided in divorces

Posted on September 15, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Less than 50 percent of divorcing couples have planned for such matters as child support and visitation rights since the revised Civil Code was implemented in April, which requires couples with small children to do so, according to the Justice Ministry.

As local governments accept divorce applications without making couples declare such arrangements, the effectiveness of the revision has often been questioned.

The ministry collected its first statistics on the issue during the first quarter since the revision came into force. The results reflect the difficulty couples face in reaching an agreement on child-related matters.

In tandem with the implementation of the revised code, the ministry in April added items to the divorce application form asking couples with young children to verify they have come to an accord on certain issues. This includes whether they have agreed on visitation arrangements for the noncustodial parent and how child support will be handled.

According to the ministry, 32,757 couples with young children mutually consented to file for divorce from April to June. Among them, 15,622, or 48 percent, indicated they had made arrangements regarding visitation for the noncustodial parent, and 6,843, or 21 percent, had not. The remaining 31 percent did not check any boxes.

Concerning payment of child support by noncustodial parents, 16,075 couples, or 49 percent, had made a decision on the matter, while 6,316, or 19 percent, had not. The other 32 percent left the boxes blank.

In 2011, about 235,700 couples got divorced, with about 90 percent of them doing so by mutual consent. Still, there have been many problems concerning the handling of these child-related matters after divorce.

“It’s necessary for couples to reach an accord [on such matters] for their children’s sake,” said Noriko Mizuno, a Civil Code professor at Tohoku University.

“In Western countries and South Korea, couples are not allowed to get divorced unless they agree on a plan to raise their children and the plan is approved by the court. In Japan, it’s not sufficient to simply check whether parents have come to an agreement on such matters. We must also create a system to verify their decisions really serve the best interests of the child and enforce them if so.”

(Sep. 15, 2012)

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Nicaraguan dad seeks change in Japan’s judicial system on child custody

Posted on November 29, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A U.S.-based Nicaraguan man who fought a legal battle with his Japanese ex-wife for custody of their 9-year-old daughter has called for changes in the Japanese judicial system, saying the lack of power to enforce court rulings hinders the resolution of such disputes.

Following a drawn-out conflict involving legal action in two countries, the mother last week consented to return the child to the father within 30 days in a plea agreement in a court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In an e-mail interview with Kyodo News after the ruling, the father, a permanent resident of the United States, said he believes his former wife was arrested on a felony charge as U.S. law enforcement authorities thought civil court procedures would not deliver a desirable outcome soon.

When she went to Hawaii to renew her green card in April, the 43-year-old woman from Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture was nabbed on a charge of concealing the daughter from the 39-year-old father.

Following the plea agreement, the case in the U.S. court will be held open for three years, after which the felony charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor if she adheres to the court order. The mother plans to live in the United States and seek regular visitation rights, her American lawyer said.

In 2008, the couple filed for divorce and days before the father was granted custody of their child by a U.S. court, the woman took the girl to Japan. After returning home, the mother sought to become the girl’s custodial parent, in place of the father, as she claimed to have been abused by her former spouse.

In March this year, the Itami branch of the Kobe Family Court decided to change the custodial parent as requested by the mother, underlining the fact that the daughter had become accustomed to life in Japan.

But the court rejected the woman’s claim of abuse due to a lack of evidence and granted visitation rights to the father to maintain the daughter’s contact with the languages and cultures of the United States and Nicaragua, according to the mother’s Japanese lawyer.

Both parents filed a protest against the Kobe court ruling and the case is now being examined at the Osaka High Court. The woman’s Japanese lawyer said she will likely drop her appeal in Japan following the plea agreement in the United States.

The man welcomed the Milwaukee court decision as “the first case of a child abducted to Japan to be returned to the habitual residence.” He also said the best interests of his daughter will be protected as she will have access to both parents and her “multicultural heritage.”

He said the case was important as it “allowed us to show the inefficiencies of the Japanese legal system,” referring to what he calls “the lack of enforcement” and “protectionism” in the country’s court process.

The father said his former wife has limited his contact with the daughter in Japan despite the couple’s agreement in the U.S. court to ensure communication between the man and the child.

As an example of the lack of the Japanese courts’ power to enforce their rulings, the man said his former wife “when urged by the judge to let me see my daughter, she simply said ‘No’ and turned around.”

In a rare decision in Japan, the Kobe court granted him visitation time of about two weeks in Japan and 30 days in the United States every year until August 2017. But the mother said such requirements would be “a significant burden” for the daughter and appealed the ruling, the lawyer said.

The lengthy civil court proceedings in Japan may have prompted the U.S. law enforcement authorities to issue an arrest warrant for her a few weeks before her capture in Hawaii, the man said.

To deal with an increasing number of cross-border parental child abduction cases, the Japanese government decided in May to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets rules and procedures for the prompt return of children under 16 to the country of their habitual residence.

Japan is the only Group of Eight country yet to join. In the country, which adopts the sole custody system, courts tend to award mothers custody and it is not unusual for children to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up.

The man said he doubts his case could have been settled more smoothly if Japan had been a signatory of the pact, saying his ex-wife “would have used one of the so-called Japanese exceptions for the Hague,” pointing to her claim of his violence.

The Japanese government has been preparing domestic legislation to endorse the Hague Convention, with the aim of submitting a bill to a regular Diet session to be convened early next year.

The bill would indicate exceptions to the returns of children. The outline of the bill worked out by the government sets two conditions — when the abducting parent has fled from an abusive spouse and when such a parent could face criminal prosecution in his or her country of habitual residence.

The Hague Convention only says children will not be returned when 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” and does not stipulate specific conditions.

“If Japan makes significant changes in the domestic law, including securing and enforcing visitation rights and court orders, I believe that most parents will look for a ‘civil’ solution, and a criminal option will be left behind,” the Nicaraguan man said.

Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of Waseda University specializing in family law, said Japan’s accession to the convention will likely lessen “forcible” solutions of custody rows through criminal prosecutions as it would enhance cooperation between judicial authorities of the countries involved.

Tanamura also said Tokyo needs to work out a system to provide support to anyone involved in such disputes both within Japan and abroad to ensure the welfare of children. “We have long avoided a debate on how the parent-child relation should be after divorce, but we now have to create a system centered on children’s benefits,” he said.

Kyodo News has refrained from disclosing the names of the family members involved in this child custody case for privacy reasons.

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Japan court allows family reunion in U.S. after int’l divorce

Posted on May 28, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , , |

Saturday 28th May, 06:00 AM JST      KOBE —

A Japanese court has ruled that a Nicaraguan man in the United States can meet with his separated child from Japan for temporary family reunions, a rare decision in an international divorce dispute, attorneys involved in the matter said Friday.

The Itami branch of the Kobe Family Court handed down the judgment March 14, which both the father and mother appealed to the Osaka High Court.

The family court judged that the man’s former Japanese wife, who took their child to Japan after the divorce, must allow the father to meet the 8-year-old child for about 30 days in the United States each year through August 2017.

The court also ordered the woman to have the father and child meet in Japan for about two weeks every year during the period and stay in touch by web camera and telephone.

‘‘It will make the child happier when becoming familiar with the language and culture of the father’’ said Judge Nobuyoshi Asami in the judgment.

But the court rejected the claim by the father to take back the child from his former wife and transferred custody of the child to her, saying the child has become accustomed to life in Japan.

Details about the family such as names, ages and sex of the child were not disclosed.

The woman’s attorney said, ‘‘I appreciate that the court approved the transfer of custody but I’m worried that the high frequency of required meetings and telephone calls could be a burden to the child.’’

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Video’s of British fathers who can’t see their kids

Posted on January 31, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Two British father’s are fighting to see their kids. Alex and his kids live in Japan but his ex has prevented him from seeing them. Shane lives in Britain and his kids went to Japan with their mother to visit a sick relative. They never came back and Shane has no contact with his kids. Click on the links below to watch the BBC videos.

Alex Kahney

Shane Clarke

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Father’s Day Protest in Tokyo (video)

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , |

About 50 left behind parents got together on Father’s Day in Tokyo to raise awareness about Japan’s growing Family Law Problems. Japan doesn’t have a joint custody system like most western countries, so when couples divorce one parent (usually the father) looses parental rights/visitation rights. Sometimes children are abducted by one parent to their home country. Some Japanese parents can’t see their child because he/she is in another country. Some foreign parents can’t see their kids because they have been abducted to Japan and the spouse is refusing all contact. Still other parents live in Japan both far and near from their kids but they can’t see them because the spouse or family court has denied access to one parent. All the parents in attendance believe it is best for children to have both parents and they want the government of Japan to take action so children have the love and attention of both parents.

Click on the link to watch the video:
TV coverage of protest

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In the Best Interest of the Court: Child Custody and Divorce

Posted on January 16, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Colin Jones, law professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, has written a paper titled “IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE COURT:  WHAT AMERICAN LAWYERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION IN JAPAN”. The title speaks for itself. If you are divorced, thinking about getting a divorce, or know someone that is divorced, I highly recommend that they read this long and informative paper about the Family Courts in Japan.

“Thus, while my description of the Japanese system in the context of child custody and visitation may seem to portray it as illogical, it is not. It functions adequately in protecting the interests of the judicial system and its actors. Of course, protecting the interests of children is also a goal of the family court, but in the context of divorce, there is no way for an outsider to separate the best interests of the child from that of the court. Tellingly, when child custody enforcement problems are debated, the focus is often not on the tragic impact it has on parents and children, but on its effect on the people’s trust in the legal system.”

Professor Jones discusses judges, mediators, investigators, custody (shinken & kangoken), visitation rights, and more.

You can read the full 104 page pdf report here.

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