TOKYO - Japan should work to solve problems in international custody cases so that children of broken marriages have access to both parents, a senior US official said yesterday, hinting that the issue could hurt bilateral relations.
Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Japan’s position has “raised very real concerns among senior and prominent Americans in Congress, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere.’’
Japan has not signed an international convention on child abductions, and its domestic family law permits only one parent to have custody of children in cases of divorce, nearly always the mother. That leaves many fathers, including foreigners, unable to see their children in Japan until they are grown up.
There are about 70 cases of American parents who are kept from seeing their children in Japan, and Campbell met with several of them in a group earlier yesterday. He called their situations “heartbreaking.’’
Steve Christie, an American university instructor who lives in Japan and met with Campbell, said he has rarely seen his son the past four years ever since his wife, whom he has divorced, suddenly left with the boy.
“This is our life and blood, this is our offspring, and we’re being denied a chance to see them,’’ said Christie, 50. “It’s not right, it’s immoral, it’s unethical.’’
In some cases, Japanese mothers living overseas have fled to Japan with their children and kept the fathers from having any contact, even if court rulings abroad ordered joint custody.