The Foreign Ministry will in September introduce a virtual visitation system to enable parents to meet children who have been abducted by their estranged partners under the Hague convention on cross-border custody disputes.

Set to be the first of the convention’s 93 signatory countries to introduce such a system, the videoconferencing facility will be offered for parents seeking child visitation rights, a ministry official said on Friday.

“We thought meeting through the Internet is a practical means, given that children and separated partners are living far from each other in other countries,” the official said.

With the approval of both parents, the system will allow either the mother or the father to converse with their children via video link while a third-party professional observes the exchanges on a screen at a separate location and has the authority to intervene if necessary.

For example, if one of the parents makes inappropriate remarks, such as verbally abusing the child or criticizing the other parent, the independent monitor will send a warning text to the screen telling the person to stop. If the behavior persists, the observer will be able to set audio on mute or turn off the video.

The ministry official noted the presence of the observer is especially important as they are there to protect the children, whose welfare is at the forefront of the treaty, from being mentally abused by one of the parents.

The system of taking part in a meeting with an observer over the Internet is also intended to soften the resistance of the other parent living with the child or children, who might otherwise fear their offspring could be hurt by careless remarks by the separated partner, the official said.

The observer’s role will be performed by personnel authorized by the Japanese branch of the International Social Service. The Geneva-based nongovernmental organization assists children and families faced with social problems due to migration.

Since the pact took effect in Japan in April last year, the ministry has so far received 86 requests from parents seeking to “visit” their separated children.

Of those requests, 67 were cases in which one parent was living overseas and sought to talk with a child forcibly taken to Japan.

A further 19 cases involved a parent living in Japan who was seeking access to their child overseas, the official said.

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