Ohio Dad With Custody Seeks Return of His Kids from Japan

Japan has not become a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This treaty provides a means of returning abducted children to participating countries.

Swaim is left to negotiate with Japanese officials with little to no leverage.

Japan has come under heat from countries like the United States, Canada, France and the United Kingdom for its failure to sign on to the Hague Convention. In May of 2009, the countries held a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. In a joint statement, representatives from each country noted what an important ally Japan is, making its failure to develop strategies for returning victims of parental child abduction in Japan especially troubling.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any case in which Japanese courts have returned an American child brought to Japan by a parent, even when the parent left behind has custody of the child.

There are currently 90 abduction cases to Japan involving 127 children, according to state department officials.

The abduction of children to other countries by their parents is a growing problem. According to the state department, there were 1,135 new requests for assistance from American parents attempting to secure the return of 1,621 children from other countries. There were 642 such requests in fiscal year 2006.  

It is much easier to return these children to the United States from Hague countries. For example, in 2009, 436 children abducted to other countries were returned. Of those children, 324, or 74%, were returned from Hague countries.  

Sometimes United States officials have successfully negotiated with non-Hague countries, at least to honor arrest warrants. However, the United States has had no such luck with Japan.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope. State department officials report that the Japanese government seems more receptive to the issue lately. In fact, a child custody office was recently opened in Tokyo.

In the meantime, frustrated parents like Swaim will have to keep trying or wait for Japan to sign on to the Hague Convention or agree to some other compromise. 

Source: Dayton Daily News "Little recourse for dad of kids taken to Japan" 8/14/10 

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