Child custody issues are difficult enough to resolve, but when parents abduct their children to foreign countries, the matters become even more complicated. Child abductions to Japan by parents or other family members prove to be among the most complicated to resolve.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions promotes returning abducted children to the country they originally came from, but even with this treaty, resolution of these cases is difficult. (1)
A prime example is the case of Tinton Falls resident David Goldman and his son, Sean. Sean was taken by his mother to Brazil, her home country. While there, she filed for divorce and kept Sean with her. She subsequently died but Sean remained in the custody of his stepfather. Brazil is one of the countries that is party to the Hague Convention and still the legal battle to get Sean back to the U.S. took five years. (2)
Japan remains the only major country that has not signed The Hague Convention treaty. Just recently, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority to approve a resolution sponsored by Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) to put pressure on Japan to cooperate with international parental child abductions. (3) Smith was instrumental in helping Goldman retrieve his son from Brazil.
There are currently 95 child abduction cases involving American children taken by a parent or family member to Japan. These cases involve a total 136 children, of which 17 are the offspring of U.S. military personnel. (2)
Jade and Michael Elias are one example. Formerly of Rutherford, NJ, the toddlers were taken in 2008 at the ages of 2 and 1, by their mother, who fled to Japan against court orders which restricted their travel. Their father, Iraq War veteran Sgt. Michael Elias has not seen his children since and Japan has done little to help. (2)
The new bill urges Japan to let all parents involved in these cases see their children and to end these wrongful abduction cases immediately. Recent news reports from Japan indicate that the country is considering signing the treaty, but first wants to resolve its own laws in light of a recent change in the political structure of that country. (3)