An Illinois native has completed a month-long bike ride that he hopes will result in changes to child custody laws. He lives in Japan; his son and his ex-wife live more than 500 miles away from him there. According to his visitation agreement, he is allowed to see his son for five hours every six weeks.
He took time out during his ride from Kyushu to Tokyo to visit with local government officials and to try to convince them that children have a right to have access to both parents. Custody and family law matters are usually the domain of the central government, but the 45-year-old is determined to raise awareness wherever he can -- it is, he says, "the first step in making change."
The man is an English teacher in Japan, and he had no reason to know anything about custody laws there until his wife moved away about four years ago. His son was 2 then. He says the country's sole custody system tends to favor mothers, on average allowing fathers four hours a month of visitation time. In fact, children often stop seeing their fathers altogether after the marriage ends.
He was in the middle of his divorce before he understood the system and its full implications. "Usually, the winner is the person who abducts the kids first," he explains.
During his visits with local officials, he lobbied for custody and visitation arrangements to conform to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although Japan ratified the convention in 1994, the country has yet to take steps to align its policies with the convention 's. That leaves Japan the only country in the Group of Seven to hold on to the sole custody system.
We'll continue this in our next post.
Source: The Japan Times Online, "Dad seeks visitation reform," Maya Kaneko, Oct. 20, 2011