Japan has long been criticized for its failure to address the issue of international child abduction. In response to international pressure, Japan adopted the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Abduction in April 2014. Despite its ratification of the treaty, great concern remains whether Japan is willing to comply with the legal obligations imposed by the Convention. This article examines Japan’s struggle with the issue of international child abduction, analyzing its traditional approach to family matters such as its “divorce by conference” system, which permits couples to negotiate issues of child custody and visitation without any judicial oversight or guidance. Further complicating matters, when a marriage ends in Japan, joint-custodial rights usually end, with only one parent getting physical custody of a child. The traditional Japanese approach to custody and visitation matters is in direct conflict with the object and purpose of the Hague Convention. This paper analyzes the conflict between Japan’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Hague Convention and its tradition-based family law system, which does not recognize joint custody, restricts non-custodial visitation, holds a nominal role for Japanese courts and essentially excludes parental kidnapping under Japanese child abduction law. The paper concludes with an examination of the steps Japan must take in order to comply with the mandate of international law.



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