The effects of a country's refusal to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction are profound. When a parent absconds with their children to a country like Japan or India even though there is an American child custody order in place, the foreign courts will ignore the previous child custody order and start over from scratch.
While both India and Japan recognize that child custody matters should be decided by looking to the best interests of the child, they have vastly different criteria than U.S. courts. For example, it is accepted practice in Japan that only one parent, usually the mother, should have sole custody of the child after a divorce.
Even some countries that have signed the Hague Convention will occasionally ignore an American child custody order. Last year, a case involving Brazil made headlines. In 2004, Sean Goldman's mother took him from New Jersey to Brazil in violation of a New Jersey court order. In 2008, Sean's mother died in Brazil, leaving the boy in the custody of her family. It was not until December 2009 and not until Brazil's Supreme Court weighed in, that Sean was returned to his father.
Presently, there is a legislative effort underway to bring more pressure upon countries that ignore American child custody orders. New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith believes that the U.S. State Department's diplomatic approach is falling short of reuniting parents with their children. Mr. Smith intends on introducing a bill that would create the Office on International Child Abductions within the State Department and create a process for imposing economic sanctions on countries that are havens for international child abduction.
Source: The Washington Post, "Japan, India pressed to curb child abductions," David Crary, 12/7/2010