U.S. House Votes to Urge Japan to Help in American Child Custody Cases

japanese-flag-640.jpgIn a nearly unanimous vote of 416-1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that urges Japan to address a growing problem of American children taken from parents in violation of child custody orders.

The resolution was introduced by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith who said that Japanese courts do not currently recognize American child custody orders and have never ordered the return of an American child. One of Smith’s constituents, Michael Elias of Rutherford, has a son and daughter who were abducted by his Japanese wife during their divorce proceedings. The judge had confiscated the children’s passports in an attempt to prevent the abduction, but the wife was able to enter Japan with her children anyway. All of the father’s attempts to visit the children have been thwarted by Japanese officials.

The House resolution urges Japan to resolve all cases involving abducted American children immediately, and directs the U.S. to treat child abduction as a central foreign policy issue. Smith, who is a Republican, had criticized President Obama for not addressing the issue when he met with the prime minister of Japan recently.

The resolution is non-binding, but Elias said it was important to focus international attention on the issue.