Every Child

Has Two Parents


Japan has not ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction


The objective of this treaty is not to decide child access issues.  The main purpose is to quickly return a child who has been “wrongfully removed or retained” in violation of the custody law of the country of the child's habitual residence.  If  the child is removed from country by a parent without the other parent's permission, the child must be returned, and the custody resolved in the original country.  It presumes that custody and access disputes should be resolved in the child's country of habitual residence, not in the country that a parental abductor brings it to.  The governments of each country are required to help locate and return the child, if necessary, by force.  If an abducting parent is able to avoid detection for an extended period of time, this does not automatically cause the child's habitual residence to change away from the country of the original habitual residence.  There are exceptions allowed, including a grave risk of physical harm to the child, and others.  But proof clearly rests with the parent opposing the return.

Japan has not signed this treaty, presumably because it would require the overhaul of many existing Family Court related laws, regulations and practices. In particular, Japanese courts currently are unable to enforce even their own custody decisions.  Therefore, signing this treaty would require courts and law enforcement to be able to force removal of a child from any parent in Japan.  This is currently not possible.  Japan is the only member of the G7 who has not signed this treaty.

Read our page on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and follow the links to the website of the Hague itself to see the list of countries who have signed.

Some countries, like Indonesia and Japan, simply have not seen any benefit in joining the 1980 Convention, because removal of children from their territory is not currently a problem. It has been pointed out that for Japan, “ politically, there is no strong incentive” to ratify the 1980 Convention, because it would have to return abducted children to foreign spouses. 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)) ]

Yuko Nishitani, an associate professor at Tohoku University and director of the Hague Academy of International Law, says that the real reason Japan has not signed the Hague Convention is that no enforcement mechanism exists in the country. Signing the convention would expose these flaws.   (click here for source)

Harty said, "The Hague Convention, while not perfect, is the best available hope" for resolving the issues of parental abduction, and expressed a desire for the Japanese government to join the convention. But Yuko Nishitani, an assistant professor of private international law at Tohoku University, said, "This is not easy to do." She said that providing administration or judicial authorities with effective enforcement measures to comply with the Hague Convention's obligation is the primary impediment in Japan's signing the treaty.    (click here for source)

Several issues are related to this and would need to be solved as part of signing this treaty.

  1. Government officials refuse to help a parent find a child being hidden by the other parent

  2. Discrimination against non-Japanese in granting child custody

  3. Fathers of Children Born Out of Wedlock Have No Custodial Rights

  4. Joint custody is illegal in Japan

  5. Japanese court orders for custody are not enforceable

Solutions We Want To See

  1. Sign and ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

  2. Pass enforceable laws guaranteeing the return of abducted children to parents under Hague cases. These laws and regulations must be scrutinized very carefully because it would be very easy to ratify this treaty and then simply allow courts to continue ruling against foreign parents in ways to ensure the treaty is rarely if ever applied.

  3. Allow foreign parents whose children were abducted prior to the treaty becoming enforceable to file Hague-style complaints even though a year may have passed since the abduction. Setup a special commission to find equitable and enforceable solutions to these cases.


  1. 'It's a heartless country that would separate loved ones'; The Japan Times; July 18, 2006; Article by Mark Smith of CRN Japan discussing 4 cases of parental abduction by Japanese citizens and illustrating support by the Japanese government, despite claims to the contrary by the Japanese Ambassador to Canada, Sadaaki Numata.  (cached copy)

  2. Think of the Children : Japan's prejudiced legal system encourages desperate parents to abduct their own kids; Metropolis Magazine; January 2006. Front page feature on Japan's prejudiced legal system from this wide circulation free magazine.  (cached copy)

  3. Increased cross-national divorces raise concerns over parental abductions; Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge via TMCNet.com; January 03, 2006. More on the December seminar at the Canadian embassy, and a few more statistics on open cases in several countries.  (cached copy)  

  4. Japan remains haven for parental abductions; Kyodo News - January 6, 2006.  This documents the strongest warning yet from Maura Harty, assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, "If Japan has been fortunate enough to not yet have a case where one of their citizens has lost access to their child, that day will come."  The United States said Japan ranks top among East Asian counties in the numbers of parental abduction cases. Annette Marie Eddie-Callagain, an American lawyer practicing law in Okinawa Prefecture says, "Court orders from other countries are not recognized because an order from another jurisdiction, according to Japan, is an order that they do not have to follow." 

  5. Japan remains safe haven for parental abductions: Outside 1980 Hague Convention; Japan Times; December 31, 2005. Jun Yokoyama, Hitostubashi University international law professor discusses the children abducted from Japan each year who would benefit if Japan signed the treaty. 

  6. 国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関するハーグ条約:マウラ・ハーティー米国国務次官補(領事業務担当) ; US Embassy in Japan website; December 3, 2005; (cached copy) Comments on Japan and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction from Maura Harty, US Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs of the State Department.

  7. Estranged parents snatch own kids in `abduction friendly' Japan Asahi Shinbun Online; January 27, 2002 Discusses a possible class action lawsuit against the Japanese government by parents in the United States. (cached copy)

  8. Lost In A Loophole: Foreigners Who Are on the Losing End of a Custody Battle in Japan Don't Have Much Recourse; Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996.  Stories of Walter Benda, David Brian Thomas, Dale Martin and Charles Talley.  Describes how lack of a "parent of Japanese child" visa gives an abducting spouse power, how a hanko can be used for forgery, and quotes a Japanese Foreign Ministry official on why Japan does not need to sign the Hague Convention on International Parental Abduction.

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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