Thursday, April 3, 2014

1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention Officially Takes Effect In Japan

Effective April 1st, 2014, Japan officially became a member of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. Japan’s ratification of the Convention not only makes them the 91st Contracting State, but it comes after long-standing diplomatic efforts and global public outcry over Japan’s previous failure to participate in the international child abduction treaty, as well as the proven history of not offering victimized children and targeted parents of abduction a vehicle to turn to in order to resolve international parental child abduction disputes.

From the standpoint of the I CARE Foundation, Japan becoming a member of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention is a definite sign that diplomatic efforts throughout the international community are working. It also strongly reaffirms that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the right mechanism for both  governments and families around the world to utilize in an effort to settle international child abduction disputes. However, it is also critically important to note that Japan's Parliment has created significant loopholes for their citizens who abduct a child to remain in Japan and enable the two newly established Hague Courts to sanction a Japanese child's kidnapping in cases that the Japanese parent claims essentially any form of child or spousal abuse. The Japanese government's exemptions to the Hague Child Abduction Convention are particularly concerning as in the vast majority of international parental child abduction cases around the world, the taking parent (regardless of man or woman) claims abuse.

In present cases of mobility, we urge the courts around the world to move very cautiously when making considerations toward travel or mobility. Specificially, it is our extreme view that courts should heavily weigh whether a Japanese parent living abroad who is seeking travel with their child to Japan has previously made false allegations against the child's other parent, or, has demonstrated a penchant to be a non-cooperating parent when the court is deciding on mobility and travel cases.  In the event that false claims by a Japanese citizen living abroad has been made against their child's other parent, courts must realize that these claims against the child's other parent will be enough evidence a Japanese national may need to permanently remain in Japan regardless of Japan's ratification of the Hague Child Abduction Convention. It is also important to point out that in Japan's culture, typically only one parent is permitted to raise the child of a failed marriage or partnership. Finally, in existing cases occurring between Japanese nationals living abroad seeking mobility or travel, courts must be aware that many Japanese citizens living abroad with a child but who are seeking to relocate back to Japan more than likely fully understand the new loopholes established under Japan's annexation of the Hague Child Abduction Convention.  Court's must proceed with extreme caution as the Japanese government begins it process of upholding the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention while also addressing their own domestic family laws.

As part of Japan's participation in the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, retroactivity, for those foreign parents that have previously had a child internationally abducted to Japan are not eligible to file a Hague Application or utilize the treaty.  Saying that, we must be sure to always remember the children who have become victims of international abduction and taken to Japan - as well their left-behind families - because it is many of those families that successfully advocated for Japan’s ratification.