Japan Faces First Hague Convention Test

British Foreign Secretary William Hague

A Japanese woman living in Britain has been ordered by a British court to return her child to the father residing in Japan under the Hague Convention, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction imposes rules on the parental custody of children abducted and taken overseas after marriages fall apart. The order was the first to enforce the return of a child to Japan since the convention took effect in this country in April, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The Hague Convention stipulates that a parent who takes a child under 16 overseas without the other parent’s consent must, in principle, return the child to the country where he or she was living.

In the latest case, the Japanese mother left for Britain with her 7-year-old child in March while divorce proceedings were under way in Japan. The father filed a lawsuit with the British court to have the child returned, saying that his wife broke a promise that she would return to Japan in May.

On June 22, the court acknowledged it was illegal for the mother to keep the child in Britain beyond May in light of the Hague Convention. The mother was ordered to send the child back to Japan by Wednesday.

The couple is in the middle of a court battle in Japan to decide who should have custody of the child. After the child leaves Britain on Wednesday, a Japanese court will begin examining the appropriate custody arrangement for the child.

“The way the child would be raised would have been decided only by the mother had the convention not been enforced,” the father’s lawyer, Hirotaka Honda, said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Through a spokesperson, the mother said: “I didn’t intend to abduct the child. I planned to go home. I don’t understand why the father filed a suit to demand the return of our child.” 



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