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After years of cajoling, Japan inks global custody pact

A select few Georgia fathers and mothers know what it feels like to be "left behind" parents. That term is used to describe international child custody situations in which parents from the United States are forced to return home without the children that the other parent took to another country without permission or legal authority to do so.

That has long been a common situation where Japan is concerned, with many Japanese mothers summarily taking children back to their home country and thereafter resisting all attempts of the other non-Japanese parent to maintain contact with them. Japanese courts have been routinely obliging in helping mothers block visitation efforts by the other parent, the rationale being a cultural belief that women are the best caretakers of children's needs. Japanese law allows for only one parent to have custody and, by default, that parent is almost always the mother.

To that end, Japan has long resisted signing the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction, being the only advanced nation among the so-called Group of Seven that has not done so. The country's refusal to join 89 other countries that have executed the pact has been termed a "huge issue" by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

That issue now seems apparently resolved, with the Japanese Parliament taking the historical step earlier this week of unanimously approving the treaty. The convention will likely take effect in the country later this year.

What the Hague Convention centrally provides for is that a custody decision in a contested matter will be determined by the law of the country where the child originally resided before being abducted.

It is expected that non-Japanese parents will now have a more substantive say in matters concerning their children taken to Japan, although the signing on to the pact is not expected to have any material effect on Japanese law disallowing joint custody.

Additionally, the convention will apply only to future custody cases.

Source: Huffington Post, "Japan child custody laws: Japan approves joining international child custody treaty," Malcolm Foster, May 22, 2013

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