We are continuing our discussion from our last post. An Illinois native, now living in Japan, has discovered the hard way that that country's child custody system differs significantly from the system here. The 45-year-old English teacher believes it's time for a change, and he recently completed a 1,500 km bike ride to make his point.
It was more than a bike ride, though. He stopped along the way to visit with local government officials and to discuss with them the unfairness of the existing system. His own visitation schedule was his chief motivator: He spends five hours with his son every six weeks.
Japan is a "sole custody" country -- even though it is a party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. In his meetings with local officials, the "cyclist with a cause" urged them to influence the central government to embrace the convention.
He is talking specifically about the first sentence of Article 9, which reads as follows:
States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.
Some of the meetings were surprising: Local child welfare officials aren't always familiar with custody and visitation issues. Their jobs are to protect children from abuse. The family law matters can sometimes be entirely off the prefecture government's radar.
While Japan has not made progress toward adoption of the children's rights convention, the country is working toward joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. As a participating state, Japan will adopt the convention's procedures for resolving international custody disputes.
We'll discuss the implications for the cyclist in our next post.
Source: The Japan Times Online, "Dad seeks visitation reform," Maya Kaneko, Oct. 20, 2011