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Japan: A safe haven for those who have contempt for child custody

During a divorce, resolving issues related to your children can be one of the most emotional parts of the process. Even after child custody arrangements have been determined, that does not always guarantee that the other parent will follow the court orders.

In Georgia, when one ex-spouse fails to follow the custody arrangement, the other spouse can file child custody contempt. While that is a legitimate court action in the United States, it is less effective when the contemptuous parent flees the country. Unfortunately, that is a growing phenomenon. Many mothers abduct their children to Japan, and the fathers never see their kids again.

In 84 other countries, the foreign officials would send the parents and children back to the United States. However, Japan has not signed the Hague Convention on the Prevention of Child Abduction and is under no such obligation.

As a result, Japan has become a safe haven for parents who have contempt to their child custody arrangements. To further reiterate that point, one U.S. embassy official in Tokyo said, "It is our understanding that no U.S. citizen child abducted to Japan has been returned to the United States."

Although Japan has received a significant amount of pressure from individuals in Tokyo and from other countries, they have maintained their opposition to signing the Hague Convention. Some women who flee to Japan claim that they were the victims of abuse in their marriages, and they say moving to Japan is the only way to end the violence.

Finding a solution that leaders in both countries can agree upon will be difficult. Until then, Japan will likely continue to be a popular destination for women who abduct their children.

Source: TIME, "How Did Japan Become a Haven for Child Abductions?" Lucy Birmingham, 7 March 2011

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