Notes on the Issue of Child Custody

Before Traveling abroad with a Child

 

1 What Happens through Trans-boundary Child Removal

1 The child can be returned to the country of his or her habitual residence based on the Hague Convention.

 The Hague Convention prescribes that when a child is wrongfully removed across national boundaries, he or she should be, in principle, returned promptly to the country of his or her habitual residence. (The return of child may not always be ordered by a court in some circumstances.)
 Consequently, if one parent takes his or her child to Japan or another country across a national boundary without the consent of the other parent who has custody, and if the other custodial parent makes an application for the return of the child, the child can be returned to the country of his or her habitual residence.

2 One might be prosecuted as a criminal.

(1) Illegality of the Child Removal

 In Japan, the child removal itself does not constitute a crime unless the case is considered as abduction or kidnapping. In some countries, however, when a parent takes the child out of the country without the consent of the other parent who has custody, it may constitute a crime under the penal code. (In some countries, taking the child even out of the state within the country can be subjected to criminal prosecution.) In reality there were instances where a parent was arrested as suspect of child kidnapping upon re-entry to the country of habitual residence, or wanted internationally by ICPO (International Criminal Police Organization).
 If you are considering moving across national boundaries out of your country with child, you are advised to check the legal systems of the country of habitual residence.

(2) Relation with the Hague Convention

 The Hague Convention prescribes the procedures for the return of the child to the country of his or her habitual residence in cases of wrongful removal for the benefit of the child, and does not therefore prescribe any criminal or other procedures against the parent who wrongfully removed the child.

2 Important Points about Applying Minor’s Passport

When a minor applies for passport of Japan, the consent of both parents is required.

  • (1) Regarding the application for Japanese passports of minors, Japan issues passports by having a signature of a custodian as a legal representative to the application form.
    However, if the other parent has expressed his/her disagreement on the issuance of the child's passport either to the Japanese Embassies, Consulates General or the prefectural passport offices in Japan beforehand, the passport will usually be issued after the verification of the consent of both parents. In this verification process, the Japanese Embassies and Consulates General, as well as the prefectural passport offices, check in principle with the parent who disagreed beforehand on the issuance of child's passport whether he/she is now willing to submit a "Letter of Consent for an Application of Passport", and the passport will be issued after the submission of the Letter.
  • One needs to come to the Japanese Embassy, Consulate-General or prefectural passport office in Japan to express disagreement in writing with other supporting documents such as “Koseki Tohon” (family registry) that demonstrates your parental authority. For details on necessary documents, please ask the Japanese Embassy, Consulate-General or prefectural passport office to which you plan to submit the documents.
  • (2) As mentioned above at the section 2, in some countries, taking a child abroad without consent of his/her spouse who has parental authority may be accounted to criminal liability. In fact, there are cases in which parent taking a child was arrested of child abduction when he/she reentered the country, or that parent was placed on the international wanted list of International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO). To prevent Japanese citizens from such disadvantages, the Japanese Embassies and the Consulates General, which are located in such countries that stipulate in domestic law the taking of a child as a crime, are checking verbally to confirm the existence of agreement of both parents on the application for child's passport, even if there is no declaration of disagreement from one parent.
[Note]Assistance not provided at diplomatic missions
Communication between family members;
Search for or research on a child removed by the other parent;
Financial support for fee of attorney and for filing lawsuits,extension of loan and guarantee; and
Interpretation service in the court proceedings etc., translation of documents for the court proceedings.

3 To those who Have Experienced Domestic Violence (DV)

There are places where you can talk about a situation that your spouse uses violence against you (Domestic Violence: DV), If you have any concern about DV, please contact the following organizations. Even if you relocate abroad with your child in order to evade DV, you might face problematic consequences such as a criminal prosecution.

(1) Assistances abroad (Assistance for the Japanese citizens abroad)

(a) Embassies/ Consulates

The Japanese embassies/ consulates abroad offer the following assistance for Japanese DV victims.

  • Making records of consultations
    If you have a consultation regarding your family matters (such as DV, removing a child aboard wrongfully, or divorce) at the Japanese embassy/ consulate, a record of the consultation will be made. A copy of such record may be issued upon a request from a court or yourself.
  • Report or request an assistance to related agencies (if there is any safety concern)

[note] Providing information such as attorneys who are specialized in family law and international civil affairs, available assistances and welfare services abroad

(b) Supporting Organizations for DV Victims

The Japanese embassies/ consulates have consignment contracts with the following organizations so that Japanese victims can talk about their issues in Japanese. These organizations provide counseling, phone consultation, and information regarding DV related laws and court systems.
In case a staff member of these organizations deals with you in English, please mention that you need assistance in Japanese.

In the United States
The Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource ProjectOpen a New Window : Embassy of Japan in the USA.
Tel: 202-833-2233 [Mon. through Thu.9:00- 18:30, Fri 9:00- 18:00]
WomankindOpen a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in New York
Tel: 888-888-7702 [24 hours and 7days]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed during Mon. through Sat. between 9:00 – 17:00.
Little Tokyo Service CenterOpen a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles
Tel: 213-473-3035 [Mon. through Fri. 9:00- 17:00]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.
Asian Pacific Islander Legal OutreachOpen a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco
Tel: 415-567-6255 [Mon. through Fri. 9:00- 17:00]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed.
JB Line, Inc.Open a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in Boston
Tel: 781-296-1800 Email: help@jbline.org [24 hours and 7days]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.
API Chaya (APIC)Open a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle
Tel: 206-325-0325 (helpline), 877-922-4292 (toll free)
[Mon. through Fri. 10:00- 16:00]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.
Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC)Open a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu
Tel: 808-531-3771 (in Oahu Island), 800-690-6200 (outside of Oahu Island)
[Mon. through Fri. 8:30-16:30]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.
In Canada
Japanese Social Service (JSS)Open a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto
Tel: 416-385-9200 [Mon. through Fri. 10:00-18:00]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.
YWCA Munroe House: Consulate-General of Japan in VancouverOpen a New Window (FacebookOpen a New Window)
Tel: 604-209-1808 [Mon. through Fri. 10:00-17:00]
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.

Note: please dial “1” first for country codes of the USA and Canada and then dial a telephone number when you make a call from Japan.

In Australia
IWSS (Immigrant Women's Support Service)Open a New Window : Consulate-General of Japan in Brisbane
Tel: 07-3846-3490 [Mon. through Fri. 9:00-16:00] Emai:mail@iwss.org.au
[note] Japanese staff is stationed during Mon. through Wed. between 9:00-16:00.

Note: please dial “61” first for country codes of Australia and then dial a telephone number when you make a call from Japan.

In the United Kingdom
Bromley & Croydon Women's AidOpen a New Window : Embassy of Japan in the UK.
Tel: 020-8313-9303 [Mon. through Fri. 9:00-16:00] Emai:kumiko.b@bcwa.org.uk
[note] Japanese staff is stationed at all times.

Note: please dial “44” first for country codes of the United Kingdom and then dial a telephone number when you make a call from Japan.

(2) Assistance in Japan

(a) Hague Convention Division

If you consider to travel abroad with your child in order to evade DV or have already done so and want to know about the Hague Convention or have any concerns, please contact the Hague Convention Division. Our staff explains about the Hague Convention. Those victims who are already involved in the Hague Convention case can also contact the Hague Convention Division.

[note] A court is not bound to order not to return a child to the state of his/her habitual residence even in a case that one parent has experienced DV from the other parent.

Hague Convention Division

Tel: 03-5501-8466 [weekdays 9:00-17:00 (except 12:30-13:30)]
Email: hagueconventionjapan@mofa.go.jp

(b) Others

The Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers (PDF)Open a New Window (note1) offers help to DV victims. Also, you can receive legal consultations at Bar AssociationsOpen a New Window in each prefecture (note1) and the Japan Legal Support CenterOpen a New Window (consultations are available in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog).
The Japanese Central Authority provides seminars to the above organizations upon requests.

(note1) there are organizations that provide multi lingual services. Please contact them directly.