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International child abduction still a real problem: Part 1

When it comes to international child abduction by a noncustodial parent, Japan and India are said to be among the worst for not upholding U.S. court decisions.

A recent article in the Washington Post explored the issues related to one parent who runs off with a child to another country, even though he or she does not have child custody.

The noncompliance problem lies around the fact that countries like Japan and India have not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on international abduction, which would in essence speed up the process of bringing a child back to the parent who actually received custody. So far more than 80 countries have signed the treaty, but only a couple of Asian counties have.

According to sources, in Japan it is an accepted practice that one parent - usually the mother - will get custody of a child, which when that woman has abducted the child and moved to Japan, puts a father at risk of not being able to see his child until he or she is fully grown.

And attempting to take the matter into one's own hands is also not the best idea. One Tennessee father, who had custody of his two children, went to Japan to try and get his kids back from his ex-wife who had violated the U.S. court order. However, the father's attempt to get back the kids that he legally had custody of failed, and he was arrested and spent 18 days in a Japanese jail.

As of now, the Tennessee father's story is one of hundreds, as between Japan and India there are more than 300 cases involving 400 children of similar international child abduction stories. And, according to the State Department, there are no known cases of a child who was taken from the U.S. and brought to Japan being ordered back to the U.S.

While this story paints a grim light on the state of international child abduction by a parent, there has also been some positive advancement as some Asian counties have recently agreed to sign, or sent indication that leaders will sign the treaty. Japan has also expressing some interest in signing, and has even opened an office in its foreign ministry that deals with these types of abduction issues.

Source: The Washington Post, "Japan, India pressed to curb child abductions," David Crary, 7 Dec 2010

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