Plan to join Hague pact on custody due in May

Kyodo

The government will announce in May a plan to join the Hague Convention, which deals with cross-border child custody rows, official sources said Wednesday.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government is expected to instruct the Justice and Foreign ministries to develop the necessary bills, with the aim of approving the plan to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction during a regular Diet session next year.

Japan has been under international pressure to join the child custody pact, which is designed to help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan after their marriages with Japanese nationals fail.

If Tokyo remains out of the pact, it could mar international confidence in Japan, the sources said. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to relay Japan’s policy at a Group of Eight summit in late May in Deauville, France.

The Hague Convention sets procedures for resolving child custody cases in failed international marriages. As Japan has yet to join, non-Japanese cannot see their children if their Japanese spouse takes them to Japan from the country where the family has been residing.

There has been heated debate over whether to join the treaty, as it is customary for mothers to take sole care of children after divorces and it is not unusual for kids to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up. Critics have raised concerns over joining the pact, saying it could endanger Japanese parents and kids who have fled abusive relationships.