Child custody is a subject that parents can easily disagree on, and whatever is decided is not always favored by both parents. Some parents, however, will do whatever it takes to have full access to their child, even going so far as to kidnap them from the other parent.
Japan has become a sort of safe house for these parents. U.S. child custody laws do not allow a parent to leave the country with their child without consent of the custodial parent. Because Japan doesn't recognize U.S. custody laws, hundreds of parents have reportedly abducted their children and are now living in Japan. The Japanese government has refused to sign a treaty with the U.S. that would require kidnapped children be returned to the U.S. Once a parent has entered Japan with their child, they are virtually protected.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon has affected many people, including one man whose wife lied to officials in order to obtain a new passport that would allow her to move to Japan, selfishly taking their 4-year-old son with her. Suddenly, the child has only one parent with no answers why. "What's he going to think?" said the 47-year-old father about his son. "I'm not the victim here. He is."
President Obama and other U.S. officials say that they are willing to push Japan to do the right thing, despite close relations with the country on various issues. However, even after years of discussion, there is little progress to show. Not a single child abducted to Japan has been returned to the U.S. through diplomatic procedures.
If you have gone through a divorce, figuring out child custody and parenting time with your former spouse can be a difficult thing to do. While a situation like this may not be happening to you, as a custodial parent, it is important that your rights be enforced.
ABC News: "Abducted to Japan: Hundreds of American Children Taken," Sarah Netter and Abbie Boudreau, 16 Feb. 2011