The Osaka Family Court on Wednesday ordered that a 4-year-old child taken to Japan by its mother be returned to Sri Lanka to live with the father, in accordance with the Hague convention on child abduction.
It’s the first such decision by a Japanese court since the country joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April.
Both parents are Japanese citizens in their 30s and 40s, the father’s attorney said.
The court heard the family of three had lived in Sri Lanka since February 2013 but left the country in June to visit Japan. In July, the mother told the child’s father that she and the child would not return to the South Asian country.
Presiding Judge Shinichi Oshima ruled that the child’s country of residence is Sri Lanka because the child was enrolled in school there, and that in the absence of safety concerns, failure to return the child “infringes the father’s right of custody.”
The mother can appeal the decision to a higher court.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction stipulates that if a parent takes a child from the country of habitual residence to another member state, the other parent can file a case for the child’s return.
The treaty can also provide assistance to parents seeking visitation, regardless of when they were separated from their children.
Parents whose partners took their children to Japan can ask for support from the foreign affairs ministry or the central authority in their own country tasked with locating abducted children.
In a case in October, a 5-year-old boy was reunited with his father in Germany under the Hague convention. The child, born to a German father and Japanese mother and who lived in Germany with his parents, was taken to Japan in June by his mother after she left her husband, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said earlier.
At the end of August, the father applied for help from the ministry through the German government to return the child under the treaty. But in that case, after negotiations, the mother voluntarily took the boy back to Germany in mid-October, the official said.
In July, a British court ordered the return of a 7-year-old to Japan who had been taken to Britain by the child’s Japanese mother.