http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/04/16/issues/hague-jars-with-japans-family-law-a-zero-sum-game-with-only-one-outcome/#.U08X547D_UN

Issues| LAW OF THE LAND

Hague jars with Japan’s family law, a zero-sum game with only one outcome

by Colin P.A. Jones

Special To The Japan Times

Apr 16, 2014
Article history

On April 1, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction went into force in Japan, as did the necessary implementing legislation. Having already written about this legislation in a prior column, I won’t revisit the subject here.

While Japan’s accession is a welcome step forward, I wonder how it will actually pan out. Implementation may be frustrated by some basic features of Japanese family law that can be neatly described mathematically: 1+1=1.

I would love to take credit for this wonderfully expressive formula, but it comes from a Japanese lawyer I met a few months ago, who used it to explain his own doubts about the convention’s viability here: “To Westerners, marriage means 1+1=2. But in Japan it equals 1.” It made perfect sense to me, but perhaps I should explain.

The traditional Japanese family structure was the ie, or house. This was an extended family that might encompass four generations of kin and several married couples sharing the same surname and even residence. The head of the house — typically the eldest male — had great authority over other members. Junior members needed his consent to marry or establish their own households. If the house was an economic entity — a farm, shop or other family enterprise — the head would also manage the business.

Primogeniture was the rule, with the eldest (legitimate) son inheriting the house, its property and the status of head. Marriage, childbirth and adoption were the means by which the house was perpetuated. While these were events that involved individual members of the house, they were ancillary to the greater collective: One plus one plus any number of additional ones still equaled one — a single ie.

The ie system was embodied in the Civil Code adopted at the end of the 19th century. It was feudalistic and discriminatory: Children born out of wedlock and women were disfavored, as were younger brothers. The head of house was a legal, heritable status that entailed both power and responsibilities, including a duty to support members of the household as well as control of family property.

The ie system was also a convenient tool for identifying, controlling and governing the Japanese people, which brings us to the koseki (family register) system. By requiring each ie to be registered, the government could implement policy through its head. The house rather than the individual was the smallest social unit directly subject to governance, with the head of the house being formally responsible for paying taxes, facilitating conscription and implementing other government programs.

The koseki system gave a weak central government leverage to govern nationally. The trade-off was noninterference within the family, with the head of the house accorded broad autonomy to govern it as he saw fit. This might include both corporal punishment and the use of junior members as a form of economic asset.

The register was also significant for commerce: It would show who was authorized to dispose of family assets, as well as an individual’s status within a particular house. This information could have financial significance. For example, an eldest son would be a lower credit risk since he could be expected to inherit the family property. The family register became a public document, a state of affairs that continued into the 1970s.

Elements of the ie system were fundamentally inconsistent with the postwar Constitution, which contains both a general egalitarian mandate and a clause specifically requiring gender equality and respect for the individual in family law. Amendments to the Civil Code and the koseki system were unavoidable.

The Americans governing occupied Japan had officially indicated that the Japanese were free to make such amendments to these laws as they thought appropriate so long as basic constitutional requirements were satisfied, which meant gender equality, marriage based on free will and the elimination of head-of-house status. This was not a clear mandate to completely excise the ie system from the Civil Code. Nevertheless, the Japanese drafting team apparently decided that such an approach would likely be viewed most favorably by the Americans.

However, what the Japanese did try to do was surreptitiously preserve elements of the ie system in case there was a desire to revive it after the Occupation (the subject was debated in the 1950s but nothing came of it). Their attempts focused on the Family Register Act rather than the Civil Code. The former being a mostly administrative statute that implemented the latter, the Japanese calculated that the Americans would stop paying attention once they were happy with the amendments to the Civil Code. They were wrong: Having been pleased to see the ie system formally excised from the Civil Code, the American authorities both noticed and objected to efforts to preserve it in the family register system.

In light of the individualistic principles of the new Constitution, the Americans actually advocated introducing a system that registered individuals rather than families. Using classic bureaucratic arguments (including insufficient paper!), the Japanese side held out for a family-based system. The Americans conceded but adamantly opposed any system that would enable three or more generations to appear in the same register, as this would have smacked of the ie system.

The result is the current koseki system, a compromise based not on individuals but on nuclear families: married couples and their children sharing the same surname. If a Japanese man and woman marry, they must establish a new register: 1+1=1. If they have a child it appears in that register: 1+1+1=1. If an unmarried Japanese woman has a child, she must establish a new register: 1+1=1. The same applies if she marries a foreigner and has a child (in family register math, non-Japanese equal zero). Japanese persons appearing in the same register are supposed to share the same surname; it’s part of the equation. If a woman gets divorced, she can revert to her parents’ register, but only if no children are involved.

The resulting system retains anachronisms that continue into the 21st century. Being rooted in marriage and surnames, it discriminates between children depending on whether they were born in or out of wedlock. Furthermore, since one purpose of the system is to identify family relationships so that government agencies and others can confirm who is responsible for whom, it is designed to minimize ambiguity. Parental authority over children is tightly linked to this system, with the Civil Code vesting it in mothers of children born out of wedlock, jointly in both parents during marriage, and in only one parent after divorce. Under this system the locus of parental authority should always be clear from the family registry.

The system is also laissez-faire. Most changes made to the family register are consensual and can be carried out with limited government interference — adoptions, dissolutions of adoptions, even many divorces. So long as a form indicating compliance is submitted, the authorities will accept it and the koseki will be amended to reflect the new status. About 90 percent of divorces, including many involving children, are made in this way, with no governmental oversight of custody arrangements. Even when parties can’t agree, the primary role of courts in the minority of cases in which they become involved is to convince parties to reach some consensual solution rather than to find facts or apply law. Since most resolutions are agreed to by the parties themselves (with or without court intervention), enforcement is something of an afterthought.

A Japanese lawyer recently related to me a consultation he had had with a young foreign man who had been living in his home country with his Japanese wife and their child. The wife took the child back to Japan for the summer and asked him to sign what she said was a school application. He could not read Japanese but signed. His wife and child never returned. When he tracked them down here, he discovered that he had signed a consensual divorce form awarding his (ex-)wife parental authority. Not only that, but his wife had since remarried and her new husband had adopted the child as his own (a common practice in Japan; otherwise the horrible anomaly of 1+1+1=2 — a man not sharing the same surname as or having parental authority over a child in his home — might arise).

This was essentially the same scenario that the other lawyer had enlightened me with using his formula, but it seems to be one that nobody implementing the Hague Convention here seems to have considered. Fundamentally, the Convention treats the parents and child as individuals, while Japanese family law still treats the family as a single unit and doesn’t handle fractions very well.

There are thus some very large gaps to bridge between the convention on the one hand and the Civil Code-family register combination on the other. The former does not distinguish based on the marital status of parents, their nationality or that of the child and is concerned primarily with the best interests of children. The latter is fundamentally rooted in marriage, the marital status of parents and Japanese nationality, all as they are reflected in the family register system. Furthermore, formal family law is largely unconcerned with the best interests of children because that would involve treating them as whole numbers and make consensual resolutions harder to achieve.

Finally, the convention is concerned with place: the child’s habitual residence. The family register system is not: Japanese nationals can register divorces, marriages or even adoptions (of other Japanese people) in their family register from abroad. Whether these transactions are valid in their country of residence is questionable, but the possibility of conflict seems obvious.

With the convention routinely and incorrectly described in Japan as being about “international divorces,” the process of bridging these gaps probably has a way to go. Certainly nobody here seems to have anticipated the possibility that cases seeking return under the Convention might involve families comprised entirely of Japanese nationals.

Of course, case resolutions will be where the rubber meets the road. The government hopes that most cases can be resolved amicably through mediation, whether through the courts or other organizations. (Full disclosure: I am registered as a mediator/arbitrator candidate with the Osaka Bar Association’s dispute resolution center.) Paradoxically, however, it is mediation and a focus on consensual results that contributed to Japan being an abduction haven in the first place — by allowing courts to remain involved while doing nothing affirmative for long enough that the child was settled in his or her new environment.

If mediation and the judicial process just end up being part of an exercise in “convincing foreign father to let the kids stay in Japan” (as one lawyer explained the need for mediation in such cases to me), then the whole process of Japan joining the dozens of other countries already party to the Hague Convention might add nothing to Japan’s family law equation.

Colin P. A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. Law of the Land appears on the third Thursday of the month. Comments and ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/04/national/child-abduction-agreement-too-late-for-many-parents/#.U0KzqI7D_ui

Child abduction agreement too late for many parents

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Apr 4, 2014

To some parents, Japan’s official entry Tuesday into the Hague convention on cross-border child abductions doesn’t represent the light at the end of the tunnel, but the arrival of more obstacles in the prolonged effort to retrieve their children, experts say.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was drafted in 1980 to ensure that children abducted and taken overseas by a parent involved in a failed international marriage will be promptly returned to their country of habitual residence.

Japan’s refusal to sign the convention earned it a reputation as a “safe haven” for international child abductions. But from now on, the Foreign Ministry will be legally bound to locate abducted kids and facilitate their return at the request of parents abroad. The same will apply to children whisked away from Japan, as long as the country where the child is staying is a signatory of the convention.

While widely hailed as a breakthrough, participation in the pact does not satisfy everyone.

For one thing, the treaty is not retroactive, meaning repatriation is possible only in cases that take place from Tuesday on.

Regardless of the date of the abduction, however, the government can still assist parents seeking visitation opportunities, such as by trying to locate their children, according to the treaty. But these benefits can only be given to parents whose kids were under 16 years of age as of Tuesday. Anyone else does not benefit from the treaty.

A group of parents trapped in this legislative limbo went to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to explain their plight.

Miho Watanabe, a 53-year-old Japanese citizen, said she took refuge in a women’s shelter in United States in 1995 with her 3-year-old daughter to escape alleged mistreatment by her husband, an American, whom she married in Japan.

Shortly afterward, she took their daughter back to Japan and got divorced with the help of international lawyers in 1999. But in 2005, after she sent her 13-year-old daughter to the U.S. for a visit at the request of her ex-husband, he spirited her away and has refused to let Watanabe have access.

The daughter visited her once in Japan recently, but Watanabe said she has no clue about her current whereabouts.

“I was told (by the American family) I would become a ‘kidnapper’ if I ever tried to bring back my own girl to Japan,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe, who campaigned for Japan to join the Hague convention for years, said she was vaguely aware the pact only applies to children under 16. But she had always held out hope that she might benefit from it somehow, she said, noting that her faintest hopes were dashed on Wednesday, when ministry officials told her there was nothing they could do. Her daughter is now 21 and living independently of her father in the U.S.

“In my case, the abduction took place ages ago. At that time, she was still a little kid. It’s so unfair, after all these years that I waited, that my case is not considered eligible,” Watanabe said.

Masako Akeo, head of Left Behind Parents Japan, a group of Japan-based parents separated from their children, expressed outrage over the government’s ingrained “tardiness.”

Akeo’s husband, who is also Japanese, took their son, raised in Canada, to Japan in 2006 without her consent. A Japanese family court later granted him sole custody of the boy, effectively denying Akeo any visitation rights. She has no idea where he is today.

“We all looked very much forward to this day. But now we’re devastated to find out we’re not even eligible to ask for the government’s support to locate and help us visit our kids,” Akeo said.

While acknowledging that their situation is a pity, legal experts argue that the convention’s current framework does not allow such parents to be helped.

“It’s not like there is absolutely nothing they can do. They could go to the U.S. and litigate a case themselves. But I understand it will be a very, very laborious task,” said lawyer Masami Kittaka.

“The sad reality is that Japan’s accession to the convention does nothing to directly improve their situation,” she said.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404040015

Child abduction treaty gives hope to parents separated from their kids

April 04, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

American Jeffrey Morehouse has no idea where his son lives, knowing only that the 10-year-old’s address is somewhere in Toyama Prefecture.

His last contact with the boy was when his divorced Japanese wife lived in the United States. He lost all contact after she and her son abruptly moved to Japan.

But Morehouse, who lives in Seattle, is finally taking a big step toward getting in touch with his son again, and perhaps bringing the child back to the United States.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction took effect for Japan on April 1, giving parents overseas, like Morehouse, and in Japan a legal means to visit their children.

The so-called Hague Abduction Convention governs cross-border child custody disputes resulting from broken marriages. Under the treaty, if a marriage fails and the parents start living in separate countries, the decision on who receives parental rights to raise children under 16 falls under the jurisdiction of the country where the family lived with the child before the breakup.

Before Japan signed the treaty in January, a number of high-profile cases surfaced about the plight of overseas parents who had no legal way of even contacting their children taken to Japan by their former spouses. However, Japanese parents are also expressing hopes that the treaty will help them be reunited with their children who live overseas.

A Japanese woman living in Chiba Prefecture last month wrote a letter to the parents of her ex-husband, who are currently raising her 14-year-old daughter in the United States.

“I have the right to meet with my daughter,” the 34-year-old woman wrote.

She later received an e-mail instructing her to never again try to contact her daughter.

The woman was married to an American who worked at a U.S. military base in Kyushu. After they divorced, the ex-husband returned to the United States with their 8-month-old child in 2001 without the mother’s consent and asked his parents to raise the girl.

The mother visited the home of her former husband’s parents in the United States two years later, but she was allowed to meet her daughter only three times.

Five years ago, the ex-husband’s family refused to let her to see the child.

The woman said she expects the Hague Abduction Convention to help her in the battle against her ex-husband and his parents.

“I hope the Japanese government will negotiate (with U.S. authorities) as equals,” said the mother. She plans to use the Foreign Ministry to repeat her demands that her ex-husband’s parents allow her to visit her daughter.

Although cases involving children “abducted” before April 1 will be exempt from the convention, parents can still call for governmental assistance in setting up meetings with their children.

A Canadian man moved to Japan in 2011 to see his three daughters.

His ex-wife had returned to Japan with the children and had rejected all of his requests to visit the girls.

The Canadian said he met his children three times last year without prior appointments, and that he expects the convention to make it easier for him to visit his daughters.

The U.S. State Department said it received 24 applications on March 31 from divorced parents calling for meetings with their children overseas. A number of parents, including Morehouse, visited the State Department that day to request measures to set up visits with their children in Japan.

According to the State Department, 58 cases concerning 80 children unfairly taken from the United States to Japan have yet to be settled, the third highest figure after Mexico and India.

A representative of a group of those visiting parents said meetings with the children will be the first step in getting the children returned.

Paul Toland, a co-founder of Bring Abducted Children Home, a U.S. nonprofit organization calling for the return of children taken to Japan, said he wants the Japanese government to quickly take measures under the spirit of the Hague Abduction Convention.

Toland, himself, on March 31 called on the State Department to work with the Japanese government to set up a meeting with his 11-year-old daughter in Japan.

Beth Payne, director of the Office of Children’s Issues in the State Department, promised that the U.S. government will continue efforts to settle cases reported before April 1 by negotiating with Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. Congress is currently discussing legislation to enable the president to impose sanctions on nations that fail to take adequate measures to resolve the child abduction problem. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill.

One issue of concern among Japanese parents is how courts will weigh domestic violence in deciding if their children should be returned to the nation where the family resided before the divorce or separation.

Under the convention, Japan’s Foreign Ministry will help foreign parents find arbitration organizations for their demands that their children in Japan be returned to them.

If the Japanese parents refuse the demands, the Tokyo or Osaka family courts will decide whether to issue orders for the children to be sent to the country where the family originally lived.

If the courts recognize the existence of serious domestic violence, the Japanese parents will be allowed to refuse to return their sons and daughters to their former foreign partners.

The Hague convention will also cover cases in which both parents are Japanese and one of them takes the child overseas.

Regardless of the parents’ nationalities, cases involving a divorced husband or wife taking a child elsewhere in Japan will not be subject to the treaty.

Under Japan’s Civil Law, parental rights are granted to one parent after they split. Although a divorced couple can discuss visitation rights at the time of the divorce settlement, the decision is not legally binding.

In many cases, the parents take their children elsewhere in Japan without the consent of their former partners.

Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties are currently discussing legislation to address such domestic cases.

(This article was compiled from reports by Satomi Sugihara and Tsuyoshi Tamura in Tokyo and Takashi Oshima in Washington.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1463285/activists-say-japan-will-try-bend-rules-child-abduction-convention

Activists say Japan will try to bend rules of child abduction convention

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 10:53pm

UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 2:35am

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

Japan’s commitment to the Hague Convention on child abduction went into effect this week, but children’s rights activists warn that authorities are already looking for ways to avoid complying with the treaty.

Before Tuesday, Japan was the only G8 nation not to have ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which generally stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent without the consent of the other parent.

Pressure had been growing on Tokyo to adopt the legislation as a growing number of international marriages – estimated at 40,000 a year – are also ending in separation and divorce.

Embassies in Tokyo are handling about 400 cases in which the Japanese parent has violated the terms of the convention by taking a child back to Japan, but international authorities have been powerless to act once they get there.

“We have been pressing for this for many years now and we are pleased that it has finally been ratified,” said Brian Thomas, joint founder of the Japanese arm of the US-based Children’s Rights Council.

“But we do have reservations,” he admitted, pointing to cases in Japan in which judges have invariably sided with a Japanese woman who claims she has been hit by a partner.

“The Japanese government keeps making excuses every time any Japanese national claims they have been subjected to domestic violence – and, of course, every lawyer now knows that is a legitimate defence,” said Thomas, who moved to Japan from Britain in 1988, two years after meeting his wife Mikako.

Their son, Graham Hajime, was born in January 1990, but Thomas returned from work one day to find their home locked and empty. He has not been permitted to see his son since April 1993, but carries his photo at all times.

“In this sort of situation, there is a clear need to have an outside expert assess a situation and to make a decision on what is really going on,” he said. “I’m really worried that the Japanese courts and the government here will continue to manipulate the situation in favour of their own nationals.”

Even more upsetting for Thomas is the fact that the legislation is not retroactive and cannot therefore be applied to his own situation.

“This does not help me at all,” he said. “But I will fight on for other parents who are affected by their child being taken away.”

Under the terms of the new law, a central authority has been set up within Japan’s foreign ministry to locate children who have been removed from their place of habitual residence overseas and brought to Japan.

The ministry will make efforts to encourage the parents to settle the dispute voluntarily, but if that fails, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will institute hearings and issue rulings.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Tokyo adopts child abduction treaty

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/140401/us-fathers-urge-japan-comply-child-custody-treaty

Kyodo News International April 1, 2014 4:16am
U.S. fathers urge Japan to comply with child custody treaty

A group of U.S. fathers urged the Japanese government Monday to comply with a convention for settling cross-border child custody disputes and help them and other American parents reunite with their children living in Japan.

The fathers and their supporters, including a veteran congressman, handed a petition to a minister of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, a day before Japan’s implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

They were among some 20 people who marched through the U.S. capital holding placards with their children’s pictures and met with a relevant U.S. government official earlier in the day to increase awareness of child abduction to Japan.

The group Bring Abducted Children Home organized the events.

Paul Toland, co-founder of the group, told reporters, referring to Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention, “Today can be a new beginning.”

“But remember this. It’s just the beginning. The ultimate resolution of these cases has not yet been attained,” Navy employee Toland, 46, said.

Toland said he has not seen his daughter for almost 11 years since his wife took their then 9-month-old baby to Japan before divorce proceedings had concluded and custody determined.

His former wife and her mother rebuffed his every attempt to see his daughter, he said. Although he has been the sole living parent since the former wife’s death several years ago, he has no rights to see his daughter.

Tokyo became the 91st signatory of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets out the 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.

The Hague pact is not retroactive, only dealing with cases occurring after its entry into force. But it can provide assistance to parents seeking visitations, regardless of when they were separated from children.

Christopher Smith, a House of Representative member, joined the people in making the calls on the Japanese government.

“Parents here today whose children were abducted prior to ratification cannot be left behind again,” said Smith, who heads the House subcommittee on global human rights and international organizations.

The fathers came to Washington from across the country, with one flying from as far away as Singapore. Some described Japan as a child custody “black hole.”

The fathers and the supporters, including attorneys, asked the U.S. State Department to help realize reunions with their children in a meeting with Beth Payne, director of the department’s Office of Children’s Issues.

The department received 28 applications, involving some 40 children, from the group on Monday. The office has been working on 58 other cases involving around 80 children as of February 2014, according to a department official.

While the department’s spokeswoman Marie Harf described Japan’s participation in the Hague Convention as “a positive change,” many parents who took part in Monday’s events indicated they have little faith that the Japanese government would help them retrieve their children.

They also said they are worried that cases would be remanded to local family courts, which lack expertise on the convention and have traditionally given custody to mothers. Nor does Japan have reciprocal custody agreement with the United States.

The group’s attorney Stephen Cullen mentioned that 200 more applications will be submitted within the year.

==Kyodo

Copyright 2014 Kyodo News International.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.meetup.com/Left-Behind-Parents-Japan/events/174099972/?a=ea1_grp&rv=ea1

Press conference by mothers who have had their children internationally abducted

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014
3:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Judicial Correspondent Club Shiho Kisya Club (at Tokyo High Court)

1-1-4 Kasumigaseki chiyoda-ku , Tokyo (map)

The Hague Convention will ratify from April 1st. After April 1st, how will the visitation be changed? How does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs support us?
We have been waiting for today forever.
Four left behind mothers will announce about their cases at a press conference. Their children were internationally abducted by their spouses.

Date April 2

Place: Judicial Correspondent Club (at Tokyo High Court)
1-1-4 Kasumigaseki chiyoda-ku Tokyo
Tell: 03-3581-5411

Time: from 15:00PM to 15:30PM

If you will be present, please let us know or contact Judicial Correspondent Club.

We ask for the volunteers to help us.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/28/national/u-s-official-calls-for-return-of-all-kids-taken-to-japan-after-failed-marriages/

National

U.S. official calls for return of all kids taken to Japan after failed marriages

Feb 28, 2014

WASHINGTON – A State Department official on Thursday called for the return to American parents of all children taken to Japan without their consent by their former Japanese partners after failed international marriages.

“We will not be satisfied until all those children are home where they belong,” Susan Jacobs, special adviser for children’s issues at the department, said in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Although Japan is set to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April, which mandates the return in principle of children taken away from their countries of habitual residence, the pact will not be applied to cases that occurred before Japan becomes a party.

The United States and numerous other countries have repeatedly urged Japan to sign the treaty. The government plans to resubmit in mid-March a set of bills to the Diet necessary for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes.

Jacobs thus sought further action by Tokyo so as to ensure the return of children taken away from their American parents and moved to Japan before the treaty takes effect in Japan.

During the hearing, Jacobs revealed there are 80 such children whose custody is requested by their American parents.

“We have not forgotten cases that still exist,” Jacobs said.

In a statement to the Senate committee, Jacobs said, “We look forward to continued progress with the Japanese government on resolving existing cases in the spirit of the convention.”

SOURCE: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.authprint&cid=17

Japan – Central Authority & practical information

Central Authority(ies):

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Contact details:

Address: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2-2-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
TOKYO
100-8919 Japan
Telephone: +81 3 5501 8152
Fax: +81 3 5501 8148
E-mail: -
General website: http://www.mofa.go.jp/
Contact point: Consular Policy Division
Languages spoken by staff: Japanese (by telephone)
Japanese and English (by fax)

Practical Information:
(The following information was provided by the relevant State authorities or was obtained from the replies to the 2003 and/or 2008 Service Convention Questionnaires)

Forwarding authorities
(Art. 3(1)): the judges
Methods of service
(Art. 5(1)(2)):
Formal Service (Art. 5 (1)(a))
The Minister for Foreign Affairs refers the document to the competent court of justice. Service is then effected either by post (special postal service, Article 49 of the Mail Act; a report of service is drawn up by the postman) or through a marshal.

Informal delivery (Art. 5(2))
The Minister for Foreign Affairs refers the documents sent to it to the competent court clerk. The court clerk informs the addressee of the documents to be served and the addressee then either presents himself / herself to the court or requests that they be forwarded to him / her. In the latter case special postal service will be effected (Article 49 of the Mail Act; the postman will draw up a report of the delivery).When the person to be served refuses to accept the documents, or fails to appear or to apply for forwarding the documents to him / her within three weeks of the date on which he/she was informed, the documents will be returned to the applicant.

Service by a particular method (Art. 5(1)(b))
When it is so requested, a marshal will effect service by delivering the document directly to the person after ascertaining that he / she is the addressee.

Translation requirements
(Art. 5(3)):
Full translation is required for any document to be served under Article 5(1)(a)(b). We serve the translation to the addressee together with the original.

Japan has not concluded any agreements under Article 20(b).

Costs relating to execution of the request for service
(Art. 12):
In principle, the applicant incurs no charges because the National Treasury bears costs of service. However, in the case of service by a marshal, a fee is charged and should be reimbursed. To that end, the court which effected the service sends a bill of the costs to be reimbursed to the applicant together with the certificate referred to in Article 6.

When executed by a marshal, the amount to be paid for the performance of service is 1,800 yen (service in working hours on weekdays) or 4,200 yen (service in night times, weekends or holidays) plus the marshal’s travel expenses, which is 37 yen per kilometer from the competent district court to which he / she belongs.

Time for execution of request: About four months
Oppositions and declarations
(Art. 21(2)): Click here to read all the declarations made by Japan under the Service Convention.
Art. 8(2): No opposition
Art. 10(a):
No opposition

“Japan has not declared that it objects to the sending of judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to addressees in Japan. As the representative of Japan made clear at the Special Commission of April 1989 on the practical operation of the Service and Evidence Conventions, Japan does not consider that the use of postal channels for sending judicial documents to persons in Japan constitutes an infringement of its sovereign power.”

“Nevertheless, as the representative also indicated, the absence of a formal objection does not imply that the sending of judicial documents by postal channels to addressees in Japan is always considered valid service in Japan. In fact, sending documents by such a method would not be deemed valid service in Japan in circumstances where the rights of the addressee were not respected.”

(See Conclusion and Recommendation No 57 of the 2003 Special Commission.)

Art. 10(b): Opposition
Art. 10(c): Opposition
Art. 15(2): Declaration of applicability
Art. 16(3): No declaration of applicability

Derogatory channels (bilateral or multilateral agreements or internal law permitting other transmission channels)
(Arts. 11, 19, 24 and 25)

Disclaimer:
Information may not be complete or fully updated – please contact the relevant authorities to verify this information.

Consular Convention between Japan and the United States of America

Consular Convention between Japan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Agreements or arrangements concerning judicial assistance between Japan and; Swiss Confederation, Kingdom of Denmark, Republic of Italy, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Federative Republic of Brazil, Kingdom of Thailand, Federal Republic of Germany, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Syrian Arab Republic, Kingdom of Norway, Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Austria, State of Kuwait, Republic of Iraq, State of Israel

Useful links:

(This page was last updated on 15 May 2009)

Japan – Competent Authority (Art. 6)
The District Court which has rendered judicial aid with respect to the service is designated as the authority competent to complete the certificate in the form of the model annexed to the Convention, pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 6.

Japan – Competent Authority (Art. 9)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2-2-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo
100-8919 Japan
tel.: +81-3-3580.3311

The following has kindly been translated for Children’s Rights Council of Japan by a U.S. licensed attorney who is a native speaker of Japanese. It is a translation of the Japanese Central Authority’s Application for Visitation Procedures section and is for those parents who are residing in the United States seeking Visitation Rights for Children located in Japan.

LBPs Requesting Visitation
(With respect to the Hague Convention Central Authority)

1. Before Applying – Grounds for Dismissal
Those who request Visitation can apply for “Assistance for Visitation or Contacts with a Child in Japan” through the Central Authority. However, if any of the Grounds for Dismissals below apply (under Act for Implementation of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Article 18 (1)), your Application for Assistance will be dismissed. Therefore, Applicants must verify whether their Application fall under any of the following categories:

① The child is over 16 years old;
② It is known that the child is not present in Japan, and the country of the child’s presence is unknown;
③ It is known that the child is present in a Hague Non-Member country;
④ It is known that the child’s location and the Applicant’s (LBP’s) residence or habitual residence is within the same Hague Member country;
⑤ It is known that the Applicant’s residence or habitual residence in within Japan AND it is known that the LBP does not have a resident or a habitual resident in any other Hague Member country;
⑥ It was known that immediately prior to separation from the child, the child’s habitual residence was within a Hague Non-Member country; and
⑦ It is known that under the laws of the country, state or local area of the habitual residence of the child, immediately prior to the
separation of the child, the Applicant was prevented from visiting or meeting the child.

2. Brief Summary of Procedures
The following system is for Applicant’s whom are not able to see their children despite the fact that they have received Visitation Rights
accordingly to the laws of the original habitual residential country.

Hague chart

3. How to Submit an Application
As shown above, an Applicant may submit an Application to the Japanese Central Authority.

If the Applicant is submitting an application to Japanese Central requesting Support in Visitation or Other Contacts with the Child, Applicant must fill in and submit the Designated Application Form along with the Necessary Documents.
※ LBPs who are seeking Visitation Rights through Japanese Courts may also directly Petition to the Tokyo/Osaka Family Courts. For more information on how to petition, please directly contact a Japanese Attorney or the Tokyo/Osaka Family Courts (in the original document it advises the Applicant to contact any Japanese Family Court. However, under the page for “Request for Assistance in Return of a Child,” it only designates the Tokyo/Osaka Family Courts as a contact.) However, please note that the Japanese Family Courts only accept communications in Japanese.

4. Procedural Steps to be Taken by the Central Authority Upon Receipt of the Application
(1) Discovering the Child’s Whereabouts
In cases where the child’s caretaker is residing is unknown, the Central Authority, through assistance of the Japanese Administrative Agencies and/or the Local Public Agencies shall investigate the child and the caretaker’s whereabouts.
(2) Decision to Support
After reviewing the Application under the terms of the “Act for Implementation of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail_main?re=02&vm=04&id=2159), the Central Authority shall make a decision on whether or not to Assist the Applicant through either one of the following actions and notify the Applicant of the action.
(i) Decision to Assist;
(ii) Dismiss the Application; or
(iii) If the child is found to be residing in another Hague Member Country, the Central Authority shall forward the Copies of the Application along with the Accompanying Documents to that Country.
(3) Clerical Duties of the Central Authority upon Decision to Support the Application
If under the Hague Convention it is desirable to resolve the problem directly between the Taking Parent (TP), and the
Applicant, and the TP and would prefer mediation, the Central Office shall assist with Communications between the
Applicant and the person interfering the Contacts with the child, and refer the Applicant and the TP to other ADR
Agencies or Legal Professionals Referral Programs.

5. Family Court Procedures Regarding Child Visitation
Applicants who are requesting Visitation with a child residing in Japan through the Central Authority may separately Petition to the Japanese Family Courts for (Domestic) Litigation or Mediation.
Procedures for Visitation through the Japanese Family Courts basically shall be based on Domestic Laws of the Japanese Family Courts under normal procedures, unless the issue is to be handled specially for Jurisdictional Issues or Access to Court Records.
For further information on Family Court Procedures see: http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/fp/hr_ha/page22_000873.html
(I shall be able to translate this section soon).

6. Support for Visitation (Introducing Parents to Parenting Coordinating Visitation Agencies in Japan)
By referring the involved parties to Parenting Coordinating Visitation Agencies in Japan, the Japanese Central Authority shall assist the involved parties with the (visitation) Orders decided upon Amicable Negotiations, Settlements, Mediation and Litigation.

“From the Shadows”:

A documentary Film about International Child Abduction

Awarded honorable mention for documentary film, Philadelphia Film Festival 2012

http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/

Learn more about this heartbreaking issue, and how to date no child has been returned to his/her country of habitual residence as a result of any action taken by the government of Japan. The Foreign Nurses Association of Japan presents the film as a public service.

Date: February 22 (Saturday)

Time: 2 PM-5 PM

Venue: Tokyo Women’s Plaza

Cost: ¥500 donation

Q&A session with director David Hearn will follow the film.

This event is open to the public–please invite friends and colleagues. For more information, please contact Ann Endo, endofam@gol.com. Reservations appreciated for planning purposes, but not required.

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