National

Top court reverses 2016 international child custody decision

Kyodo

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a mother who sought to revoke a January 2016 decision to hand over her children to their U.S.-based father, saying he lacks the capacity to raise them. The original decision was based on an international treaty to help settle international child custody disputes.

The original Osaka High Court ruling also stated that returning to the United States would be beneficial for the children.

However, according to the Dec. 21 ruling by the Supreme Court’s First Petty Bench, the father lost their home, and his capacity to raise the children has “worsened to the point that it cannot be overlooked.”

The court said the father “does not have the financial capacity to properly take care” of the children, given his inability to provide a stable residence. This kind of arrangement will “not benefit” the children, according to the court.

Originally, the family lived in the United States until the mother returned July 2014 to Japan with the four children, aged 6 to 11. The two parents disagreed on whether to return to the United States, prompting the father in August 2015 to petition for their return to the U.S.

The original high court ruling was finalized January 2016. But in February the same year, the house in the United States was put up for auction, and the father started living at an acquaintance’s house. Additionally, the children refused to return to the United States.

Japan joined the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April 2014. The Hague treaty sets out rules and procedures for promptly returning children under 16 taken or retained by one parent as a result of a failed marriage to their country of habitual residence, if requested by the other parent.

Before Japan joined the treaty, it had been accused of being a haven for international child abductions.

Domestic legislation relevant to the Hague pact stipulates that a decision can be changed if it is deemed that sticking to the original decision would be unreasonable based on a change in circumstances.

Bearing in mind this provision and a change in the father’s financial capacity to raise the children, the mother petitioned to have the 2016 ruling changed.

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