Archive for November, 2011
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A U.S.-based Nicaraguan man who fought a legal battle with his Japanese ex-wife for custody of their 9-year-old daughter has called for changes in the Japanese judicial system, saying the lack of power to enforce court rulings hinders the resolution of such disputes.
Following a drawn-out conflict involving legal action in two countries, the mother last week consented to return the child to the father within 30 days in a plea agreement in a court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In an e-mail interview with Kyodo News after the ruling, the father, a permanent resident of the United States, said he believes his former wife was arrested on a felony charge as U.S. law enforcement authorities thought civil court procedures would not deliver a desirable outcome soon.
When she went to Hawaii to renew her green card in April, the 43-year-old woman from Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture was nabbed on a charge of concealing the daughter from the 39-year-old father.
Following the plea agreement, the case in the U.S. court will be held open for three years, after which the felony charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor if she adheres to the court order. The mother plans to live in the United States and seek regular visitation rights, her American lawyer said.
In 2008, the couple filed for divorce and days before the father was granted custody of their child by a U.S. court, the woman took the girl to Japan. After returning home, the mother sought to become the girl’s custodial parent, in place of the father, as she claimed to have been abused by her former spouse.
In March this year, the Itami branch of the Kobe Family Court decided to change the custodial parent as requested by the mother, underlining the fact that the daughter had become accustomed to life in Japan.
But the court rejected the woman’s claim of abuse due to a lack of evidence and granted visitation rights to the father to maintain the daughter’s contact with the languages and cultures of the United States and Nicaragua, according to the mother’s Japanese lawyer.
Both parents filed a protest against the Kobe court ruling and the case is now being examined at the Osaka High Court. The woman’s Japanese lawyer said she will likely drop her appeal in Japan following the plea agreement in the United States.
The man welcomed the Milwaukee court decision as “the first case of a child abducted to Japan to be returned to the habitual residence.” He also said the best interests of his daughter will be protected as she will have access to both parents and her “multicultural heritage.”
He said the case was important as it “allowed us to show the inefficiencies of the Japanese legal system,” referring to what he calls “the lack of enforcement” and “protectionism” in the country’s court process.
The father said his former wife has limited his contact with the daughter in Japan despite the couple’s agreement in the U.S. court to ensure communication between the man and the child.
As an example of the lack of the Japanese courts’ power to enforce their rulings, the man said his former wife “when urged by the judge to let me see my daughter, she simply said ‘No’ and turned around.”
In a rare decision in Japan, the Kobe court granted him visitation time of about two weeks in Japan and 30 days in the United States every year until August 2017. But the mother said such requirements would be “a significant burden” for the daughter and appealed the ruling, the lawyer said.
The lengthy civil court proceedings in Japan may have prompted the U.S. law enforcement authorities to issue an arrest warrant for her a few weeks before her capture in Hawaii, the man said.
To deal with an increasing number of cross-border parental child abduction cases, the Japanese government decided in May to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets rules and procedures for the prompt return of children under 16 to the country of their habitual residence.
Japan is the only Group of Eight country yet to join. In the country, which adopts the sole custody system, courts tend to award mothers custody and it is not unusual for children to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up.
The man said he doubts his case could have been settled more smoothly if Japan had been a signatory of the pact, saying his ex-wife “would have used one of the so-called Japanese exceptions for the Hague,” pointing to her claim of his violence.
The Japanese government has been preparing domestic legislation to endorse the Hague Convention, with the aim of submitting a bill to a regular Diet session to be convened early next year.
The bill would indicate exceptions to the returns of children. The outline of the bill worked out by the government sets two conditions — when the abducting parent has fled from an abusive spouse and when such a parent could face criminal prosecution in his or her country of habitual residence.
The Hague Convention only says children will not be returned when there is “a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation” and does not stipulate specific conditions.
“If Japan makes significant changes in the domestic law, including securing and enforcing visitation rights and court orders, I believe that most parents will look for a ‘civil’ solution, and a criminal option will be left behind,” the Nicaraguan man said.
Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of Waseda University specializing in family law, said Japan’s accession to the convention will likely lessen “forcible” solutions of custody rows through criminal prosecutions as it would enhance cooperation between judicial authorities of the countries involved.
Tanamura also said Tokyo needs to work out a system to provide support to anyone involved in such disputes both within Japan and abroad to ensure the welfare of children. “We have long avoided a debate on how the parent-child relation should be after divorce, but we now have to create a system centered on children’s benefits,” he said.
Kyodo News has refrained from disclosing the names of the family members involved in this child custody case for privacy reasons.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Nov. 29, 2011 – 07:00AM FUKUOKA —
Police are investigating a teenage couple after they brought their 8-month-old child to an emergency room in a hospital in Kasuga City, Fukuoka Prefecture, with a failing heart.
According to TV Asahi, the infant girl was admitted to the hospital at around 7 p.m. Sunday. Doctors succeeded in getting the girl’s heart beating again, but say she now appears to be in a state of brain death.
The hospital notified police that the infant exhibited bruises around the face and body, TV Asahi reported.
On Monday, police began questioning the child’s parents, who are both 19 and cannot be named because they are minors. They were quoted as saying that they sometimes hit their child because she misbehaved, TV Asahi reported.
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OITA — Japan Today (Nov. 27, 2011)
Police said Saturday they have arrested a 37-year-old woman from Beppu, Oita Prefecture, for allegedly beating to death her 4-year-old son.
The boy was found dead on Friday at the home of the woman, who has been identified as Rie Kinjo, Fuji TV reported. The boy had apparently been beaten to death. Police allege that Kinjo carried out a sustained series of assaults on her son, Shuma, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday, Fuji reported.
During police questioning, Kinjo reportedly told investigators that she punched the child in the head and chest and hit him with a plastic umbrella to discipline him after he wet himself. She said that when she woke up on Friday, her son was dead, Fuji reported.
Police said that Kinjo, who is unemployed, lived with her partner, Shuma and another younger son.
Meanwhile, NHK quoted police as saying that multiple marks and bruises were present on Shuma’s body at the time of his death and that there remains a strong possibility that he was subject to other forms of mistreatment. An autopsy is to be carried out to establish the exact cause of death.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Nov. 24, 2011 –
A three-year-old boy died Wednesday night in Tokyo’s Shinjuku after falling from the balcony of the 13th floor apartment in which he lived with his mother.
According to a TV Asahi report, police received an emergency call late in the afternoon from a neighbor who reported that a child was lying motionless on the ground outside the apartment building. Rescue workers took the child to hospital where doctors pronounced him dead a short time later.
According to police, the boy’s mother had gone shopping and left him alone at the time of the incident. Police believe the boy used a chair that had been left on the balcony to climb over the railing, resulting in an accidental fall, TV Asahi reported.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
MILWAUKEE – Nine-year-old Karina Garcia is at the center of an emotional, international battle between her parents. Her Fox Point father is fighting to bring his daughter back from Japan. The girl’s mother refused to cooperate until now.Sheriff’s deputies hurried a handcuffed Emiko Inoue into a courtroom. This 43-year-old mother has been jailed in Milwaukee County for months. She faces charges for taking her daughter to Japan to keep the child from her ex-husband. The father, Dr. Moises Garcia, had lunch with his daughter at her Fox Point elementary school nearly four years ago. That was the last time he saw her in this country, even though a Wisconsin court gave him custody. “It’s been a long fight,” Garcia told reporters. “It’s been hard.” Karina is now nine years old and is said to be living with her maternal grandparents in Japan. After hours of behind the scenes negotiations Monday, Inoue agreed to have her daughter returned to the US within 30 days in exchange for getting out of jail. Inoue faced more than a decade in prison if convicted and could have missed the rest of her daughter’s childhood. “Now, we’re hopefully with a resolution that will allow the child to be with her father and spend some time with her mother,” said Bridget Boyle, the mother’s attorney. Observers from the Japanese government attended Tuesday’s court proceedings. The case also attracted two California dads who are also fighting to bring their own children back from Japan. Patrick Braden, whose daughter is in Japan, said the Japanese government does not seem willing to honor US custody rulings. Garcia is thankful for Monday’s agreement, but will worry until his daughter is back in his arms. “She played all kinds of tricks in Japan and that’s why I tell you, until she’s back on American soil, I won’t believe that this is true,” Garcia said. Details of the child’s return to Wisconsin have not yet been determined. To view more stories about Dr. Garcia and his daughter, click on the links below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
WAKAYAMA — Nov. 19th, 2011 Japan Today
Police in Wakayama City said Friday they have arrested a 24-year-old man for assault after he allegedly stomped on his 6-month-old baby son, breaking the child’s right leg.
According to a report on NTV, the incident took place at the home of the accused on Oct 8 at around 9:30 p.m. The suspect and his 21-year-old wife took the child to hospital where medical staff became suspicious of the cause of the boy’s injuries. The Support Center for Children, Women and the Disabled then reported the incident to police, NTV said.
During questioning, the man, who was identified as Kazuki Hara, was quoted as saying that the child wouldn’t stop crying, and he got angry.
The support center said that they sent a report to police about a similar incident involving the child in July, NTV reported.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I was doing some research and found 2 US divorce lawyers had written about my trip from Kumamoto to Tokyo. Essentially it is their perspective of what I was trying to accomplish. I included the links if you would like to read their stories.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The U.S., Canada and four other countries have jointly urged Japan to take legal steps to ensure that parents who have removed their children after the failure of international marriages will not be preferentially treated contrary to an international treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, government officials said Tuesday.
The six countries — including Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand — submitted the joint statement in writing, the officials said. It was part of the Justice and Foreign ministries’ one-month public consultation from the end of September on interim proposals for domestic legislation prior to Japan’s accession to the treaty.
The rare move reflects the countries’ strong interest in Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty is designed to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence.
The envisioned domestic legislation would indicate that children will not have to be returned when the parent has fled an abusive spouse or could face criminal prosecution, presumably in connection with the abduction of offspring, in his or her country of habitual residence.
The joint opinion, submitted by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on behalf of the six governments, states that the interim proposals deviate from the convention, which allows the return of children to be rejected only when they could face a “grave risk” if returned, making spousal violence and other reasons inapplicable, the officials said.
INA, Nagano — A mother and a male acquaintance, already facing charges over forcing her eldest daughter into prostitution, have been issued new arrest warrants accusing them of attempting to rape the woman’s second daughter.
The new arrest warrants accuse the 45-year-old mother and 72-year-old Shoichi Koshio of attempting to rape the primary school-aged girl twice at a hotel in mid-May this year. According to police, the mother brought the girl to the hotel room, where she accepted a large sum of cash from Koshio and remained in the room while he tried to rape her daughter.
The pair was first arrested in connection with prostituting the woman’s eldest daughter, who is in her early teens.
Crime Nov. 10, 2011 OSAKA —
A 33-year-old man in Osaka has been arrested for allegedly scalding his one-month-old son with boiling water, police said Wednesday.
According to police, on Nov 6 at around 9:30 p.m., Hisayoshi Genno, a security guard living in Toyonaka, doused his baby son with boiling water in the shower, causing serious burns to his lower back and groin, NTV reported. Afterward, Genno—who lives with his 25-year-old girlfriend, son and daughter—took the baby to a local family doctor, but the child’s injuries were so severe, he was transferred to a hospital where he is currently undergoing treatment in an intensive care unit.
One local resident was quoted by NTV as saying that he often saw Genno walking hand in hand with his daughter and that he seemed to like children. However, other residents in the apartment block in which the family live said that recently the man would often shout at children playing outside and tell them to be quiet.
I have written about my story previously to The Japan Times, but this most recent article from Richard Cory (“Left-behind dads take desperate measures,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 4) spurs me to write again.
I am an American parent who, in 1994, abducted my children away from their Japanese father because I could not get any protection from domestic violence (against me, not the children) in Japan. In fact, the general response of the legal system was to ask what I was doing to provoke my husband and to suggest that perhaps I needed to seek therapy.
I was also advised by attorneys that it was highly unlikely that I could obtain custody of the children, despite his abusive behavior and late-stage alcoholism, and ultimately I could find no options other than fleeing Japan.
Leaving the only home they had ever known, as well as the total separation from their father, was a terrible shock for my two daughters, and has affected them into adulthood. To this day I mourn the life we lost, and wish that there had been an alternative.
My preference would have been to stay in Japan, where I had lived for 17 years and felt deeply connected, but this was not possible. Without the protection of an order granting me primary custody, and without support from law enforcement to protect us from violence, we had no way to safely stay in Japan. Sadly, my husband died two years later of his alcoholism, never having been reunited with his children.
What I find most ironic is that in the eyes of the Japanese legal system, I would be viewed as having kidnapped my children (at one point, our local consulate informed me that I could be “detained” if I returned to Japan with the issue unresolved), while a Japanese mother who fled back to Japan with her children would be viewed as having done the necessary thing.
It is time for the Japanese legal system to join the 21st century and start to put the needs of these precious children ahead of prejudice and national pride.
Portland, OregonRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
On October 16th, 2011 there was a demo in Tokyo for joint custody and the Hague. Kevin Brown, the co-founder of Children First (www.childrenfirst.jp), cycled from Kumamoto to Tokyo to raise awareness about child rights. It took him 31 days to reach Tokyo. Along the way he recieved help from other left behind parents. He stayed one to three days with fellow left behind parents in Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Okazaki, Hamamatsu, and Tokyo. Kevin, like most left behind parents has little access to his child. Like all left behind parents, he wants to see his child more than once a month for 4 hours, the average time awarded by Japanese Family Court Judges. Kevin would like to see Japan adopt a joint custody system similar to that in most western countries. Japan is the only G-7 country without joint custody. And Japan is the only G-8 country not to sign the Hague. Kevin stopped at 15 prefectural offices during his cycling tour. He spoke about joint custody and other issues affecting the well being of children. You can see about 1 minute of the demo if you click on the link: October 16th demo in Shibuya
The Japan Times published Kevin’s story: Dad seeks visitation reform
as did the Asahi Shimbu (nihongo): asahi shimbunRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
November is Child Abuse Prevention Month, an annual government campaign to promote programs that protect children from violence. Most people will say that they know child abuse when they see it, but what characterizes almost all the recent child abuse incidents in the news is lack of intervention on the part of child welfare authorities even when they’ve been following a case for years.
|Masaki Hattori, who was killed by a male friend of his mother. KYODO PHOTO|
Last month a 14-year-old boy named Masaki Hattori died in Nagoya, allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s 37-year-old boyfriend. Masaki’s case had been in the local child welfare consultation office files since 2008, when officials investigated reports that Masaki’s mother was neglecting him. A year later, case workers took him out of his home for his own protection, but only temporarily.
Last June, the office received a note from Masaki’s junior high school reporting that the boy had bruises on his face. Case workers visited his home and talked to the boyfriend, who admitted that he sometimes struck Masaki to discipline him. Because he expressed remorse, they thought the problem was solved.
In the following months, reports of abuse continued to come in from neighbors and the school, but the office did nothing because Masaki’s guardians always cooperated. On Oct. 14, case workers followed up another report from neighbors but didn’t see any bruises. Eight days later, Masaki was dead.
Guidelines formulated by the welfare ministry define four levels of abuse, with Level 4 being the most severe. Case workers are advised to remove a child from the home if they determine the child is the victim of Level 3 abuse, which constitutes bruises on the head, face or abdomen and “no improvement” in the guardian’s attitude.
A representative of the Nagoya child welfare office told the Asahi Shimbun that it is their job to “form a relationship of trust” with parents, so the tendency is “to want to believe them.” In principle, children’s welfare is based on their remaining in the home, since once children are taken out of the home “it is difficult for them to adjust.” The authorities’ main task in cases of abuse is to change the behavior of the parents or guardians.
This rehabilitative policy was the theme of a recent NHK special about child abuse. Several mothers who admitted to abusing their children discussed their situations in a studio setting. Some were from broken homes, others were not. Some were single, some were married. In all cases, there was a certain degree of financial stress and little or no help from male partners. But the most significant commonality was a profound feeling of loneliness brought on by their perceived failure as mothers. These women knew that what they were doing was bad, and in the accompanying dramatization, a distillation of many women’s stories, the mother who was portrayed contemplated suicide.
In the end, rehabilitation hinged on communication. Mothers were encouraged to reach out to friends and family, but mainly to the authorities; and people who suspected neighbors of abuse were told to speak up as well.
Such a prescription will help a lot of mothers (maybe fathers, too, but they weren’t the target audience), but it takes for granted the notion that these women understand that what they are doing is wrong and want help. In that regard it doesn’t sound as if it would have saved Masaki Hattori, or, for that matter the 16-year-old Hokkaido girl who is now in a juvenile detention center being weaned off methamphetamine administered to her by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.
This case has received a great deal of media attention because of the squalid details — mother forced daughter into prostitution to pay for her own drug habit, mother’s boyfriend was probably sexually involved with daughter — and as with the Hattori case, the authorities in this one, who knew about the girl’s circumstances since 2008, continued to leave her in the hands of two people who were probably abusing her. When asked how that could happen, the local child welfare office said it had no provisions for determining “sexual abuse,” only “abuse.” In the meantime, the girl had reportedly given the police statements indicating she was being abused but the police never passed this intelligence on to the child welfare office. Even in this exceptional case the authorities were reluctant to intervene.
|After the fact: At a press conference regarding the death of Masaki Hattori, Manabu Kanayama, (standing), director of Nagoya City Child Welfare Center, announced that an abuse notice had previously been sent from the boy’s junior high school. KYODO PHOTO|
To understand why this sensibility is so strong, it’s helpful to read an interview the Asahi conducted in September with Yukiko Tajiri, the head nurse at Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto. In 2007, Jikei installed a “baby hatch” where women could deposit unwanted infants anonymously. The hospital has received a great deal of criticism from people who say that the facility promotes child abandonment and parental irresponsibility. Tajiri insists that the hatch has saved lives, which is its fundamental purpose.
She also says the mere presence of the hatch makes it easier for the hospital to talk to women who are thinking of abandoning their children. About 500 such women call Jikei every year and in most cases the hospital changes these women’s minds. Also, in the four years since the hatch was opened, about 100 mothers have chosen to give their babies up for adoption.
However, of the dozen or so children who were deposited anonymously and whose parentage could not be determined, only one was given up for adoption. When the parent of a baby isn’t known, child welfare authorities become the provisional guardian, and they find adoption “undesirable” since there is always the possibility that someday the biological parent will come to claim the child. If no parent shows up, then the child lives in an orphanage or a foster home.
Tajiri’s story illustrates the primacy of blood ties in Japanese family law and policy, a primacy that undermines the effectiveness of child abuse prevention in this country. Fate trumps logic when the biological relationship is the overriding consideration. If children are born into abusive households, there’s nothing anybody can do about it.
Here is a summary of my 30 day cycling tour. My goal was to raise awareness about child rights, especially the right for children to see both parents after divorce/separation.
Kilometers cycled, 1500
Diet members met, 2
Times in the paper, 3 (Asahi Shimbun and Kobe Shimbun and Japan Times via Kyodo News)
Times on TV, 1 (NHK Oct. 31st)
Left Behind Parents I stayed with, 9
Left behind parents I met before reaching Tokyo, 14
Left behind parents I met in Tokyo, numerous
Child Welfare division that I spoke to (prefectural offices), 15
Questionnaires given to Child Welfare Offices, 15
Parades/Demonstrations attended, 1 (with a big welcome in Shibuya)
Everything on behalf of Childrenfirst
NHK does a very nice job with their short piece on Joint Custody. Professor Tanase, a specialist in child development does a great job. She talks about what needs to be done and what is best for the kids. Click the link to watch the short program.
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