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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Americans start Tokyo protests over Japanese child abductions

It is a very complex process for a mother to petition for full custody of a child if the child’s father already shares custody of the child. When a judge decides on who should have custody, he or she looks at the best interests of the child and it might be difficult to convince a later judge that the first judge made a mistake. It is even harder for a mother to deny the father visitation with the child. While this is true in the United States, it is a whole different matter in Japan and the Japanese legal system has long sheltered Japanese mothers who have taken their half-American children from returning them to the United States.

The United States State Department has reported 173 American-Japanese children who were taken by a parent to Japan and it is likely that there is at least one Georgian stuck in Japan. Most of the time a Japanese mother abducts her children, leaving the American father without any legal options to regain custody of his children. Sometimes the mother will completely prevent the father from seeing his children.

A group of two dozen American and other non-Japanese fathers took to the streets of Tokyo recently to urge Japanese officials to sign the Hague Convention on Aspects of International Child Abduction. Many believe the treaty would prevent many of the child abductions that happen in Japan. Japan has previously promised to sign the treaty, but it has also said that it would not retroactively apply the treaty to current child custody disputes.

The fathers’ protest coincided with Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Japan. The fathers had hoped that Biden would publicly address the Hague Convention while in Japan, but they were unsure if Biden was aware of the protest.

Source: Stars and Stripes, “Left-behind fathers urge U.S. to push Japan to sign Hague treaty,” Charlie Reed, Aug. 23, 2011