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Japan Cabinet Endorses Child Custody Change; More Debate Upcoming

According to the United States Embassy in Tokyo, there are more than 100 ongoing cases of children "abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan."

That concern has long prompted the U.S. and other nations to press Japan for changes in its child custody law, which routinely awards sole custody in cases involving children of Japanese mothers and foreign fathers to the women, while greatly limiting the amount of time that the fathers can spend with their children.

Thus, diplomats from around the world are praising the Japanese Cabinet's endorsement this past Friday of that nation's plan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on international abduction.

The response from scores of countries spanning the globe, while highly positive, is nonetheless a bit tempered by the fact that Japan's parliament must also sign off on the plan, and impassioned debate is expected in that political body.

Japan stands alone among the Group of Seven nations as the only member of that powerful group to have not signed the treaty. In fact, more than 80 countries are signatories to the Hague Convention, which promotes custody decisions being made by courts in a child's original country of residence. This contrasts greatly with Japanese law, where courts routinely make custody determinations despite the judicial outcomes already reached in other countries where a child was situated before being brought back to Japan. Additionally, the Hague Convention's language that stresses an equal right of access and visitation for both parents is in strong opposition to the practice of Japanese courts to flatly deny liberal visitation to foreign fathers.

No scheduled date has yet been announced for parliamentary debate on the matter.

Related Resource: Associated Press, "Japan Approves Plan to Join Child Custody Pact" May 24, 2011

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