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Panel eyes enforcing custody order even if refusing parents absent

TOKYO — A government panel is considering making it easier to hand over children to parents who win custody when the former spouse defies a court order to let them go, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.


The advisory panel to justice minister plans to allow children to be taken away even in the absence of the parent defying the court order, the sources said.


In September, the panel had said that in principle, removal of children by court officials would only be possible if the parent living with the children is present at the time. But the panel is now proposing that only the presence of the parent who has won custody is required.


The panel reviewed the earlier report after critics said the parent who has lost custody may intentionally hide to block the handover of children and that the absence of such parents has prevented transfers of custody in the past.


Japanese legislation implementing the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is expected to be revised as it requires the parent living with the children to be at the scene when children are handed over to the former marital partner.


“I hope to see an effective (legal revision) which will also give maximum consideration to the mental and physical well-being of children,” Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told a press conference on Tuesday.


The convention, to which Japan acceded in 2014, sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.


There is currently no stipulation in Japan’s legal system regarding parents who do not abide by a court order to hand over children to their former spouse. Such disputes have been handled based on regulations regarding the seizure of assets.


According to the proposal in the interim report, divorced parents who defy a court order and refuse to let their children go would be fined until their surrender to encourage them to voluntarily abide by the court decision.


After compiling a fresh outline including the latest review, the panel is set to submit its proposal to the Justice Minister possibly in autumn.

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