The Japanese government has stated that it plans to set up overseas centers in order to offer Japanese citizens legal support after the country formerly ratifies the Hague Convention, an international treaty for settling child abduction and custody disputes. The treaty specifies the procedures for repatriating children, and is meant to prevent one parent from a failed international marriage from running away with the child back to their home country with the permission of the other parent.
Japan is one of the few first world countries that hasn’t joined, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently hinted that he will commit to joining while meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama this week. The U.S. has been one of the nations calling on Japan to join the Hague Convention, for a number of Americans have been those whose Japanese spouse fled the country with their children, leaving with no custody rights in Japan, or even a way to make contact.
The treaty states that if a child aged 15 or younger is taken out of the country without the other parent’s consent, they will be brought back to the country where they normally reside in order for courts there to decide on custody rights. Even if Japan signs the agreement, it will have no effect on past or present cases of abduction, only those going forward. However, the government believes there will be an increase in the number of Japanese parents getting involved in child custody cases overseas, and thus wants to be prepared with support centers. Such locations will provide parents with a place where they can be introduced to lawyers, interpreters, and counselors who can explain the judicial system of the local country in their native language.