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Child custody fights could hurt US-Japan ties

Posted by Jeremy Morley | Feb 04, 2010 | 0 Comments

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The U.S. Government is clearly asserting more pressure on Japan to change its ways than ever before. See article below. On Saturday envoys from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the United States met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on this issue. They issued a joint statement that they were there to "submit our concerns over the increase of international parental abduction cases involving Japan and affecting our nationals." "Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned," said the statement. Such parents "encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities," it said.

The Japanese Foreign Minister said that, "This is a very serious issue, to which we have to find a solution." 

However, if past practice is a precedent, the Foreign Minister's statement means very little. The bureaucrats will take action only if, as and when they feel that they have little or no choice but to do so. We are not at that point yet. Far more pressure must be imposed.

Child custody fights could hurt US-Japan ties
By Associated Press 
February 3, 2010

TOKYO - Japan should work to solve problems in international custody cases so that children of broken marriages have access to both parents, a senior US official said yesterday, hinting that the issue could hurt bilateral relations.

Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Japan's position has “raised very real concerns among senior and prominent Americans in Congress, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere.''

Japan has not signed an international convention on child abductions, and its domestic family law permits only one parent to have custody of children in cases of divorce, nearly always the mother. That leaves many fathers, including foreigners, unable to see their children in Japan until they are grown up.

There are about 70 cases of American parents who are kept from seeing their children in Japan, and Campbell met with several of them in a group earlier yesterday. He called their situations “heartbreaking.''

Steve Christie, an American university instructor who lives in Japan and met with Campbell, said he has rarely seen his son the past four years ever since his wife, whom he has divorced, suddenly left with the boy.

“This is our life and blood, this is our offspring, and we're being denied a chance to see them,'' said Christie, 50. “It's not right, it's immoral, it's unethical.''

In some cases, Japanese mothers living overseas have fled to Japan with their children and kept the fathers from having any contact, even if court rulings abroad ordered joint custody.

About the Author

Jeremy Morley

Jeremy D. Morley was admitted to the New York Bar in 1975 and concentrates on international family law. His firm works with clients around the world from its New York office, with a global network of local counsel. Mr. Morley is the author of "International Family Law Practice,...

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