10 RECOMMENDATIONS CHILDREN’S RIGHTS COUNCIL OF JAPAN WISHES TO SEE IMPLEMENTED IN JAPAN:

1. ENACT LAWS REQUIRING ADEQUATE COURT ORDERED VISITATION BETWEEN CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS.

2. ENFORCE VISITATION AGREEMENTS.

3.  ACTIVE GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE IN LOCATING MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN.

4. ENACT A SHARED PARENTING (JOINT CUSTODY) LAW.

5. CREATE A PARENT OF JAPANESE CHILD VISA CATEGORY.

6. RECOGNIZE FOREIGN CHILD CUSTODY ORDERS.

7. SIGN AND RATIFY THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION.

8. PROTECT RIGHTS OF BIOLOGICAL PARENTS IN ADOPTION AND CHANGES OF CUSTODY.

9. ESTABLISH SAFE HAVEN CENTERS.

10.  ESTABLISH A CENTRAL AUTHORITY IN JAPAN WHICH WILL PROVIDE CASE WORKERS, AS WELL AS KEEP RECORDS AND PUBLICLY REPORT AND PUBLICIZE CASES OF MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN IN JAPAN.

DETAILS FOR EACH PROPOSAL:

1. ENACT LAWS REQUIRING ADEQUATE COURT ORDERED VISITATION BETWEEN CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS.  We call upon the Japanese government to enact laws requiring adequate court ordered visitation for non-custodial parents. The responsibility to ensure regular visitation is a direct consequence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Japan in its entirety on May 22nd 1994.  Article nine of this treaty obligates Japan to “Respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal contact with both parents on a regular basis.”   Just as there are now guidelines for adequate alimony to custodial parents, there should be guidelines for adequate visitation.  Adequate means, when practical to the education and upbringing of the child, up to 50% time, and should entail overseas visits with grandparents and extended family.  Criminal statutes should be enacted against concealment of children from their parents.

2. ENFORCE VISITATION AGREEMENTS.  We call on the Japanese government to enact effective and promptly enforceable measures to ensure that all parents comply with visitation and access orders. The responsibility to enforce visitation is a direct consequence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Japan in its entirety on May 22nd 1994.  Article nine of this treaty obligates Japan to “Respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal contact with both parents on a regular basis.”  It should not take months or years of appeal after appeal in the Japanese court system to enforce visitation with an uncooperative custodial parent.  Japan does not provide for “Contempt of Court” as the U.S. system does when a parent does not comply with a visitation order.  Japan needs a similar enforceable mechanism.

3.  ACTIVE GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE IN LOCATING MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN.  We call on the Japanese government to immediately implement a program to vigorously and promptly assist in locating any missing/abducted children reported to be living within Japanese borders.  Japanese police should be legally required to immediately report and actively investigate any incidents of missing children reported to them.  All Japanese agencies and institutions should be legally obligated to disclose full information on the whereabouts and well-being of children to non-custodial parents.  As a preventative measure, custodial parents should be legally obligated to provide accurate contact information on the Residency Registration (Juuminhyou) and should be legally obligated to promptly update it when changes occur, and there shall be no government interference in non-custodial parents’ rights to this information.

4. ENACT A SHARED PARENTING (JOINT CUSTODY) LAW.  We call on the Japanese government to enact a law with a presumption of joint custody for those who want it.  A “shared parenting plan” worked out between both parents should become an absolute requirement for all divorces involving children or any custody agreement.

5. CREATE A PARENT OF JAPANESE CHILD VISA CATEGORY.  We call on the Japanese government to create a “Parent of Japanese Child” visa category.  There is currently a Child of Japanese, and Spouse of Japanese visa category.  The new category for “Parent of Japanese Child”  would be appropriate at all times, whether there is an ongoing custody/visitation dispute, or not.  It should be similar to the spouse visa and allow a parent to work and live in Japan if their financial resources allow it. If a guarantor is not available, a reasonable bond from the parent should be acceptable instead.  This would allow the non-custodial parent to request adequate visitation with the child, and actually be able to use it.  It would also allow a non-custodial parent the ability to fight and defend themselves in Japanese court.  This will also eliminate one reason that a non-Japanese parent might consider abducting a child out of Japan.  This will make the Japanese parent feel less threatened, since even if they were to separate from the Japanese parent, the non-Japanese parent would be able to stay in Japan.

6. RECOGNIZE FOREIGN CHILD CUSTODY ORDERS.  We call on the Japanese government to expedite the court processing of foreign child custody orders when a Japanese parent has removed the child from the foreign home.  The situation needs to be rectified in adherence to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

7. SIGN AND RATIFY THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION.  We call on the Japanese government to sign and ratify this treaty and enact domestic laws to criminalize parental abduction.  Sixty five nations have signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the aspects of International Child Abduction, but Japan is the only one of seven major industrialized nations not to sign. Under this treaty, children who have been abducted or retained overseas must be returned to their country of habitual residence and fall under the jurisdiction of that country’s legal system.

8. PROTECT RIGHTS OF BIOLOGICAL PARENTS IN ADOPTION AND CHANGES OF CUSTODY.  We call on the Japanese government to change existing laws or enact new laws that require notification of non-custodial biological parents before an adoption or change of custody of their child occurs.  If a custodial parent is no longer willing or able to take care of a child, there should be a legal presumption that the non-custodial biological parent has clear legal priority for custody, over and above all others including relatives of the custodial parent. To facilitate notification, the government should be required to maintain a central database of parents who are missing their children because one parent is hiding.  Require courts to check this database before any legal change of status of a child is allowed in Japan.  Should it still be impossible to find or notify the other parent, the maximum amount of time before a change like this becomes permanent should be increased to 3 years.

9. ESTABLISH SAFE HAVEN CENTERS.  We call on the Japanese government to immediately implement a program to permit regular, direct contacts between children and their left-behind non-custodial parents in a positive, humane, and expeditious manner by means of a Safe Haven Center. This special program would be modeled on the Centers which Children’s Rights Council of the United States has already implemented throughout the U.S.  These Centers include neutral, child friendly, non-threatening locations such as churches or community centers or schools, and not uncomfortable, stressful settings such as police stations, court buildings, or lawyer’s offices.  Only one parent would be with the child at a time and the transfers between parents would be supervised by neutral, specially trained and qualified third parties.

10.  ESTABLISH A CENTRAL AUTHORITY IN JAPAN WHICH WILL PROVIDE CASE WORKERS, AS WELL AS KEEP RECORDS AND PUBLICLY REPORT AND PUBLICIZE CASES OF MISSING AND ABDUCTED CHILDREN IN JAPAN.  We call on the Japanese government to establish a central authority responsible for assigning case workers whenever children are reported as missing/abducted, and to maintain records on these cases and publicly report and publicize them, modeled after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States.

One Response to “10 Proposals”

  1. David said

    Thank you so much for providing such useful information for foreign parents who are alienated from their children in Japan. I wholeheartly agree with your 10 proposals. I think a common problem though that all foreign parents suffer from is that of parental alienation.
    I really feel that the Japanese legal system needs to accept that this happens and is the excuse that most Japanese custodial parents use for refusing the non custodial parent access to his or her children. I think until it is accepted that parental alienation exists joint parenting and visitation rights will always be problematic.

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