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Japan Needs International Child Support Law

POINT OF VIEW: Japan Needs International Child Support Law

 

By Tommy G. Thompson

 

Children with dual nationalities are the truest bridges that exist between our two cultures. They foster understanding far more than professional diplomats or politicians could ever hope. In this 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family (2004), we should cherish children with dual nationalities as symbols of what unites us as peoples and nations.

Sadly but inevitably, the number of international divorces and separations affecting Japanese families is also on the rise. As is always the case with divorce, it is the bridges - our children - who suffer most.

Globalization means people are moving across international borders much more than in the past. Family law, which has historically been governed by domestic law, increasingly has had to be internationalized to keep up with the changes. Countries are required to cooperate to solve difficult questions affecting families and children, just as they have to cooperate on security and economic issues.

Parental child abduction and the failure to pay child support are two serious problems that are increasingly arising in the international context. These issues are difficult enough when everything happens within the borders of a single country. They become extraordinarily difficult when more than one country is involved. International cooperation is essential if we are to protect families in these situations.

For example, when one parent seeks unlawfully to remove a child from his or her habitual residence, or to deprive the other parent of access to the child, this is child abduction. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, adopted by 74 countries, is an important tool for those seeking the return of children abducted across international borders, or to exercise their rights of access to see them.

In addition to participating in The Hague abduction convention, the United States has built up a body of supplementary laws and regulations to protect against international child abduction. We have a requirement, for example, that both parents approve of a passport application for minors under the age of 14.

We also have strict laws governing child support, for which the Department of Health and Human Services has primary responsibility. We can deny, for example, passport services to parents who are delinquent in paying child support. These laws have been extremely successful in forcing non-custodial parents to meet court-ordered financial obligations to their offspring.

The United States also participates in a number of bilateral reciprocal child support enforcement agreements, under which the United States will collect child support for a custodial parent residing in a partner country from a U.S. resident who is a non-custodial parent, and the other country will do the same for U.S. custodial parents.

The United States and Japan are both participating in the negotiation of a new multilateral Hague convention on the enforcement of child support obligations.

While we welcome Japan's involvement in this negotiation, we were disappointed to learn that Japan does not expect to become a party to the new convention in the foreseeable future.

Japan is the only G-7 industrialized country that is not a party to The Hague abduction convention.

It does not have a formal two-parent signature requirement for obtaining passports for minors. It has no bilateral child support enforcement agreement with another country, and has no plans to participate in the new multilateral child support convention.

Japanese law enforcement and social service agencies unfortunately seem unable to enforce custody and support orders - even those laid down by their own courts, let alone from another country's courts.

Obviously, each country has its own legal system, which reflects that country's deeply held values. International legal cooperation in family matters cannot and does not require that all countries' legal systems be exactly the same. But just as countries have to be willing to adjust their own laws in order to compete in a global economy and participate in the fight against international terrorism, they also have to ensure that their family laws provide an effective remedy in international abduction and child support cases.

The U.S. government considers the welfare and protection of U.S. citizens overseas, especially children, one of our most important responsibilities. We strongly believe that children best prosper when they have the benefit of the financial and emotional support of both parents and that governments have a responsibility to facilitate this support.

As we celebrate together this 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, I urge Japan to take the steps necessary to put in place a legal system under which Japan can cooperate fully with the United States and other countries on international child abduction and the recovery of child support.

Information on Japanese Family Law:
Spousal violence constitutes a serious violation of human rights, as well as being a crime  continue

The statutory law in Japan contains no provisions  continue

Family courts and their branch offices are established at the same places where district courts and   continue

Some cases in English on Japanese family law  continue

Selected excerpts from Japan's Family Registration Law  continue

This case illustrates a stark illustration of the complete failure of the Japanese legal system to protect children  continue

unofficial translation of Book IV; Relatives  continue

Kyogi Rikon (Consent Divorce)  continue

Has anything changed in the fight against international child abduction?  continue

Japan's private international law  continue

Service of process in Japan raises difficult issues.  continue

Divorce has constantly been on the mind of Imelda (not her real name), a 36-year-old Filipino woman who married a Japanese man seven years ago.  continue

An American Dad is behind bars and his Japanese ex-wife is a fugitive from justice  continue

In the debate about whether Japan should sign the Hague abduction convention, a serious consequence of Japan's failure to ratify the treaty is being overlooked. Japan's failure to sign the convention is extremely damaging to Japanese nationals living overseas, since  continue

It’s been six years, three weeks and one day since Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland last saw his only child, Erika  continue

We have represented many international clients who  continue

Japan is a haven for international child abduction. Now one child who was abducted to Japan is to be returned to Wisconsin, thanks to our team’s non-stop efforts   continue

This article from ABC News (2008) is based in part on an interview with Jeremy Morley.   continue

Four fathers quietly filed into a theater to watch  continue

After several years of struggling to understand the workings of the Japanese family law system on behalf of Japanese clients or non-Japanese clients with Japanese spouses, I have reluctantly concluded  continue

1996 judgment of the Supreme Court of Japan  continue

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has upheld a decision allowing a Japanese mother to relocate with her six-year old child   continue

In Japan since 2003 there have been two ways to calculate child support. The first way  continue

Japanese law enforcement and social service agencies unfortunately seem unable to enforce custody and support orders   continue

Under the Japanese Civil Code, either the husband or wife must change their family name to be married legally. Usually it is the wife who does so.  continue

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