The U.S. government is pressuring Japan to sign a pact that regulates how international child custody disputes are settled, according to a State Department report.

The report is an evaluation of compliance of the nations that signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japan has yet to sign the convention. The convention gives the protection of certain parental rights and procedures by which abducted children can be promptly returned to their country of residence. Japan is the only major industrialized nation not to sign the agreement.

Raising Awareness

The report describes the Obama administration’s effort to raise public awareness of the difference between the two nations. The effort includes a May seminar in Tokyo on children abducted from their home country by parents. These abductions tend to be from international marriages — unions of citizens from two different countries — that end in divorce.

Japanese courts routinely award custody to the mother (rather than the more common shared custody agreements in the U.S.) and almost never award custody to foreign parents. Child custody activists say there are thousands of estranged foreign parents denied all access to their children.

State Department Speaks Out

In a meeting with Japanese Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell recently urged Japan to help end the abductions.

Chiba recently told AFP that Japan understands the child custody issue is a significant one to the Obama administration.

Chiba is part of Japan’s new center-left government. Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned over a fundraising scandal, said early this year that he was willing to sign the Hague agreement.

According to the State Department report, which covers October 2008 to September 2009, Japan had 23 cases of parental abduction involving 34 children. Though that figure places Japan seventh-highest in reported parental abductions from the U.S., it pales in comparison to Mexico, topping the list with over 300 such cases.

Facing an International Child Custody Dispute

If you face an international child custody dispute, contact a California family law attorney. A family law and child custody lawyer can help you protect your rights.