Konnichiwa. I hope you all enjoyed a nice holiday season with your families. My name is Ray Baca, and I am the Consul General at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. I am happy to be the guest editor for this issue of "American View," which focuses on child abduction and custody issues.
With the rise in the number of international marriages, this problem is one that continues to grow and grow throughout the world. "American View" introduced this topic in its Fall 2007 issue, in an interview with Michele Bond, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services, an article which is still useful in understanding the problem. In May 2009, the U.S. Embassy, along with the embassies of Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, issued a joint statement at a press conference, calling on Japan to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("Hague Convention") and urging that Japan implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and to visit them. We continue such efforts through diplomacy at a variety of levels.
Because the family law systems of Japan and the U.S. appear to be quite different, particularly in the area of post-divorce parental rights, this edition of American View begins with an article by Professor Jeff Atkinson giving an overview of child custody and visitation in the United States. Of course, when the separating or divorcing parents are of different nationalities, the first legal matter is the determination of which court properly has jurisdiction over the case.
The Hague Convention, designed with the child's best interests in mind, provides an internationally accepted mechanism for dealing with such matters of jurisdiction. Professor Shinichiro Hayakawa's article explains the purpose and benefits of the Convention. In Japan, more and more parents, both foreign and Japanese, are seeking the opportunity to play a continuing role in their children's lives even after a marriage ends in divorce. They are organizing for mutual support in pursuing that goal and urging legal reform. One of these parents is American citizen Steve Christie, who has contributed an article on NPOs and groups working to resolve parental child abduction cases in Japan, which we hope will be useful to other left-behind parents.
Finally, we appreciate the statistics from our friends at some of the other foreign embassies in Tokyo (Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain) who are working on this difficult issue and hope that this issue contributes to international understanding of parental child abduction, and to a future resolution of these tragic cases.