JFBA Brief Note - Increasing Internationalization of Family Affairs Cases - The Hague Convention to Come into Force on April 1, 2014
In May 2013, the ratification of an international treaty; “the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” (the “Hague Convention”), was approved in the Diet, and the Convention is scheduled to come into effect from April 1, 2014 in Japan. As such, “the Act for Implementation of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” (the “Implementation Act”) will enter into force on the same day.
With the coming into force of the Implementation Act, the following will commence:
1) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“MOFA”) will, in its role as Japan’s “Central Authority,” provide assistance to applicants in relation to cases under the Hague Convention, namely, by: (i) providing assistance aimed towards an amicable resolution of issues, including, locating the child, and liaising and coordinating between the parties involved; and (ii) introducing attorneys (i.e., a Lawyer Referral Service);
2) A new type of court proceeding, i.e. “filing of an application for return of a child” cases, will be handled at family courts in Tokyo and Osaka; and
3) The JFBA will introduce lawyers through the Central Authority (i.e., through the Lawyer Referral Service).
As one of the means of assistance to be provided by the MOFA as set forth in 1) above, the ADR proceedings for cases in relation to the Hague Convention, entrusted by the MOFA, will also be handled in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa. The ADR proceedings are designed such that applications can be made through email, and Skype can also be used, thereby allowing for easy access from those parties involved who are living overseas. Furthermore, the fees with regard to translation and interpretation are set to be state-funded although capped at an upper limit.
In the near future, the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice is due to commence its review on improvements to laws concerning international civil jurisdiction in relation to personal status litigation and family affairs cases. As has already been seen, an increasing number of family affairs cases will be handled internationally.
By Tomoko Suganuma, Deputy Secretary General of the JFBA