As Japan on Tuesday formally joined the international treaty for settling cross-border child custody disputes, the government, the judicial community and social workers began preparing to support parents and children separated as a result of failed marriages.

Tokyo became the 91st signatory of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.

With the treaty taking effect, Japan is no longer a "safe haven" for international child abductions. Parents who have had a child taken to Japan can receive public support from the Foreign Ministry or the central authority in their own country in charge of locating children who have been spirited away.