Despite being well-known for its highly masculine culture, parental rights and child laws in Japan have been out of date compared to the rest of the world. However, new strides could put fathers both in Japan and abroad on a better playing field with the mother. Japan’s Cabinet has recently approved a plan to join the global child custody treaty. Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet has endorsed the move which would help spur changes in Japanese law to bring them in line with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets out rules and procedures for promptly returning children under 16 to their country of habitual residence in cases of international divorce. To-date the pact has 84 signed parties.
Spurred by the outcry from foreign parents separated from their children due to divorce 32 countries have been imploring Japan to join the treaty for some time. Included among these countries are the United States, Britain, and France. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives turned up the pressure on Japan by voting overwhelmingly for a nonbinding resolution that “condemns the abduction and retention” of children held in Japan “in violation of their human rights and United States and international law.”
Currently, Japanese law allows for only one parent to have custody of the children in divorce cases and that is nearly always the mother. This keeps some foreign fathers from seeing their children until they are grown. Activists of Japan joining the treaty say that this system has been positioned against fathers and foreigners for too long. The treaty will also protect custody decisions and ensure that the rights of access of both parents are protected.
The issue of Japan joining The Hague Convention is nothing new. It gained attention in 2009, when American Christopher Savoie was arrested in Japan after his Japanese ex-wife accused him of abducting their two children as they walked to school. His ex-wife Noriko Savoie had violated a U.S. court custody decision by kidnapping the children from Savoie, the primary residential parent, to live with her in Japan. The case against the father was eventually dropped in Japan.The Tennessean Paper has released an update, now two years later, on what has been done for Chris to bring his two children home. Click here to view the full article.
Christopher Savoie’s ex-wife has been ordered to pay the alienated father$6.1 million for damages. Obviously the father says that no money in the world can replace his close relationship with his children, but believes this recent judgment may open a door for his kids to be returned to him. His attorney, Joseph A. Woodruff said that while Japan won’t enforce U.S. judgments that pertain to custody or otherwise order Japanese citizens to “do the right thing,” they will enforce money judgments. “They will enforce orders that assess damages for breach of contract and civil wrongs,” Woodruff said. “This is a tool we’re going to try to use to convince Noriko Savoie she needs to do the right thing.”
While there are a number of other concerns surrounding the issue, such as how incidents of domestic abuse within the family will be handled with regards to custody, Japan seems to be poised to make strides toward promoting equal rights for both parents.
Jeffrey Feulner and the Men’s Divorce Law Firm believe that both parents should have equal opportunities within the law to see their children. If you’re concerned about your current custody arrangement contact us today to see how we can help defend your rights as a father.