TOKYO — The Japanese Diet enacted a legal revision Friday to enable the handover of a child to a parent who has been awarded custody, even if the other parent refuses to abide by a court order to do so.
Parliament also enacted an amendment to legislation implementing the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty providing a framework allowing the return of a child abducted by a parent living in another country.
Before the revision, the civil implementation law had no clear stipulation regarding child custody handovers. Court officials had to rely on a clause related to asset seizures to enforce court orders, which was criticized for treating children as property.
The legislation required a parent living with a child to be present when the child was handed over to the other parent. With the revision, the law allows a custody transfer to take place without both parents being present.
The amended law urges courts and enforcement officials to make sure that handovers do not adversely affect children’s mental or physical well-being. The new rules will take effect within one year of promulgation.
The Hague convention, to which Japan acceded in 2014, sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return of children aged under 16 to their countries of habitual residence in cross-border custody disputes.
Japan maintains a system of sole custody and in a large majority of cases when a dispute reaches court, mothers are awarded custody after divorce. It is not unusual for children in Japan to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up.
The civil implementation law was also amended to allow Japanese courts to obtain information on debtors’ finances and property.
The change is aimed at helping authorities to seize money and property from parents who fail to meet their court-ordered child support obligations and people who do not pay compensation to victims of crime.
The revision also bars crime syndicate members from acquiring foreclosed real estate properties in public auctions.