Forced returns eyed for Hague bill

Kyodo

A Justice Ministry panel on Monday drafted an outline of legislation Japan needs to join the Hague Treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, including a provision that allows courts to order the return of children abducted to Japan.

The panel is part of the Justice Ministry’s Legislative Council, an advisory body expected to report its conclusions to Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa next month amid plans to submit the legislation to the Diet when it opens Tuesday.

The outline also stipulates conditions for refusing to hand over a child and calls for an entity to be set up in the Foreign Ministry to search for children abducted by feuding parents.

According to the outline, if a parent living overseas files a petition with a family court in Japan to retrieve an abducted child, the court would determine whether to do so after considering the child’s opinion.

If a parent in Japan refuses to comply, family court officers could eventually use force to return the child to the parent abroad, the outline says.

However, a parent in Japan could refuse a handover order if the complaint is filed after the child has spent a year or longer in Japan and adjusted to the new environment, or if the child refuses to be handed over.

A parent could also refuse if the child might be subject to physical abuse if returned to the parent overseas, the outline says.

Disputes would be handled in closed sessions at family courts in Tokyo and Osaka. Parties involved would be allowed to appeal court decisions twice, just as in regular civil and criminal cases.