Every Child

Has Two Parents


Japanese courts do not recognize foreign custody orders


The long list of Japanese citizens wanted for international parental kidnapping shows that there are many cases of a non-Japanese parent having a custody order in another country, and the Japanese parent abducting the child to Japan. Once this happens, despite the child having a habitual residence in the other country, the Japanese courts will not recognize these orders.   International law indicates that the Japanese court should do nothing but disqualify itself from jurisdiction. In our experience, almost always fails to honor foreign custody orders, particularly when one parent is Japanese.

Not only are there no apparent sanctions for parents who abduct their children to Japan despite an existing custody order, but the Japanese system actually provides an incentive to parents to unilaterally abduct their children, whether internationally or within Japan. This is because the Japanese parent (or their lawyer) knows that they can use Japanese laws to indefinitely maintain physical possession of the child to establish a new status-quo. After establishing a new status-quo, the Japanese legal system will assume jurisdiction and grant custody to the Japanese parent. The parent who suffers the initial abduction of his or her child has limited or no recourse other than a counter-abduction. It goes without saying that a system which provides an incentive parents to abduct and re-abduct their own children unilaterally cannot be functioning in the best interests of any child.

The custodial parent can pursue this in Japanese court, but court cases in Japan can take years.  Even after several years, the final argument often ends up being that the child is now acclimated to Japan, so should not be removed from the country.  Documentation from Japanese court decrees contained within the cases below make this quite clear.

At present, Japan does not enforce child custody orders from foreign countries, nor is parental kidnapping deemed a crime there.  (Source: a report written by the Directorate of Legal Research of the Law Library of Congress in response to requests from the US Congress. (cached copy))

The Department of State is not aware of any case in which a child taken from the United States by one parent has been ordered returned to the United States by Japanese courts, even when the left-behind parent has a United States custody decree.  (Source: US State Dept website "International Parental Abduction - Japan" (cached copy))

U.S. court custody decisions are not enforceable in Japan....The Japanese government will not refuse entry to one of its citizens, even if that citizen is a dual-national child subject to a U.S. court-based custody decision.  (Source: US Consular Information Sheet for Japan (cached copy))

This is also an example of racial discrimination, since most, and very likely all foreign custody orders challenged in Japan will be those of a non-Japanese parent.

Solutions We Want To See

  1. TBD


  1. TBD

The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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