We are wrapping up our discussion of an Illinois man's struggle to change Japan's child custody laws. The man has been living apart from his now ex-wife for four years. During that time, he has visited his son every six weeks for four hours. He believes Japan's sole custody system is inherently biased against fathers.
During a 1,500 km bike ride to protest the system, the 45-year-old met with local officials in about a dozen prefectures and municipalities to encourage them to work toward more equitable laws. His objective: to build up local support that will convince the central government to embrace the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Japan is already a party to the convention but has yet to codify any of its principles. At the same time, though, the country is preparing to become a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The Hague Convention has two stated goals: "a) to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State; and b) to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in other Contracting States." In this man's case, the custody and access provisions are clearly paramount.
However, the Hague Convention covers only cross-border matters. This man's custody issues are all within the borders of Japan. And, the Convention is not retro-active.
So, for the time being, this father will be concentrating on his lobbying efforts and looking forward to those four hours, every six weeks, that he gets to spend with his son.
Source: The Japan Times Online, "Dad seeks visitation reform," Maya Kaneko, Oct. 20, 2011