By Matt Allen
Because of the difference between Japanese and American laws regarding custody and kidnapping, Japan has become a safe refuge for parents who abduct their own children and want to keep them away from their American fathers.
That may no longer be the case, though, as Japan has endorsed plans to bring itself in line with the international child custody convention commonly referred to as the Hague Convention, according to an Associated Press report.
The Hague Convention is a treaty between roughly 80 countries that agree to cooperate and abide by one set of laws for the return of children removed from their home country over custody disputes. (For more information, read the article “Hague Convention – International Child Abduction Help.”)
International kidnapping of children of divorce is exacerbated when the kidnapping parent retreats to countries such as Japan, who have not signed the Hague Convention.
Japan has been seen as a safe harbor for kidnapper parents, though increased attention and foreign pressure was put on the country following the 2009 case of Christopher Savoie.
Savoie was imprisoned in Japan for trying to rescue his kidnapped children after his ex-wife broke Tennessee state law by illegally removing the children from the United States. (Watch our interview with Savoie’s lawyer shortly after his client was arrested.)
Current Japanese law allows only one parent to have custody of children in divorce cases — nearly always the mother, according to the AP story. That has kept foreign, and even Japanese fathers, from having access to their children.
The AP said the new law would allow foreign parents more access to their children. While it is expected that the Cabinet will approve the change in custody laws, the proposal must also by approved by parliament, according to the AP story.