October 2 , 2014
An American father living in Switzerland was ordered by a Swiss court in late September to return his child to the Japanese mother residing in Japan under the Hague Convention, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The 8-year-old boy has already returned to Japan.
The Japanese mother asked the Swiss government for the return of her child via the Japanese Foreign Ministry, claiming that her American husband took the boy to Switzerland without her consent.
There have so far been 17 cases in which parents have applied to the ministry for assistance regarding the return of their children based on the convention, which took effect in Japan in April. The Swiss case is the first in which a return order was issued by a foreign court with the ministry’s assistance.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction aims to settle disputes over the parental custody of children in such cases as failed international marriages. It stipulates that a parent who takes a child aged under 16 overseas without the other parent’s consent must, in principle, return the child to the country where he or she was living. As of May, 92 countries were parties to the convention.
In the Swiss case, the couple and their child had been living in Japan. After the convention took effect in Japan in April, the American father took the boy to Switzerland. The Japanese mother applied for ministry assistance in August to recover her child.
The ministry then asked the Swiss central authorities for their cooperation on the matter. The Swiss side identified where the boy lives and aided the mother in judiciary proceedings. Ultimately, a Swiss court ordered the American father to send the boy back to Japan.
In July, a Japanese woman living in Britain was ordered by a British court to return her child to the father residing in Japan under the Hague Convention. In this case, the Japanese father directly asked Britain to make judicial arrangements for the return of the child and did not request assistance from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Even before the convention took effect in Japan, it was possible to directly ask a foreign country to help make judicial arrangements for the return of a child. In the latest case, Japan’s accession to the convention made it possible for the Japanese Foreign Ministry to provide assistance, which helped realize the boy’s return to Japan from Switzerland.
According to the ministry, of the 17 applications seeking assistance for the return of children that were filed in the six-month period from April 1 to Oct. 1, nine cases involve parents who asked for help with the return of children who were taken away from foreign countries to Japan.
The aforementioned case involving the Japanese couple is not included among those 17 cases. There have also been 56 cases in which parents applied for ministry assistance to see their children.
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