Child Custody and Visitation
Japan and Morocco are quite similar in some ways. Morroco took some steps recently to become a Hague signatory. It would be wise if Japan followed their lead. Of the 146,408 divorces in Japan in 2009, only 3.6% involved both parents taking part in child rearing. Japan’s system seems to favor sole-custody, but Morocco had a very similar system that valued one parent, usually the mother, under Shari’a law. Although Morocco allowed the father to make important decisions about the child, such as where the mother and child could live and whether the child could travel abroad, all decisions regarding daily functions and routine care were left to the mother, essentially creating a sole custody system, similar to that of Japan. Both systems included matrifocal tendencies. While Japan’s Civil Code typically breaks custody into shinken and kangoken, the Moroccan Code of Personal Status similarly divides custody into hadana and wilaya. Morocco successfully uprooted its custody system and allowed joint responsibility to be established among parents, as one parent was given hadana and the other wilaya. In Japan, the same ideology should be adopted. Instead of granting one parent parental rights and physical custody, efforts should be made to grant shinken to one parent and kangoken to the other to allow for increased responsibility for both parents and bring about an understanding of joint custody.
Second, Japanese courts, or the Japanese Diet, need to establish visita- tion as a fundamental right. One of the key reforms Morocco made to join the Hague Convention was to establish visitation rights. However, these rights were already inherent within the Moroccan system as such meas- ures were implied when Moroccan mothers were prohibited from moving away from the father so that the father could have access to the child. Similarly, in Japan, an understanding of the psychological benefits of visitation on the child is already taking root. Courts have even granted visitation rights in some cases, but have made the rights extremely limited. It is time for Japan to push this notion and make visitation rights funda- mental within the constitutional system.
Third, Japan needs to dissolve its current registration system, or at the very least, modify the system. Allowing a child to be taken off a father’s register when a mother changes her name after divorce, resulting in the loss of parental rights for the father, is abhorrent. The registration system should be discarded completely or altered so that the child’s name will remain under both parents’ registers, regardless of the marital status of the parents. Such changes will bring Japan one step closer psychologically to joint parental responsibility.
Fourth, in order to comply with the Hague Convention, services must be available to ensure the return of children to their habitual place of residence. Like Morocco, Japan should implement law enforcement mechanisms to find abducted children and return the children safely. Fortunately Article 226 of the Japanese Penal Code is already in effect to return abducted children. The Japanese government needs to force Japanese law enforcement officers to comply with Article 226 to ensure abducted children are returned home.
Lastly, before signing the Hague Convention, Morocco entered into specific bilateral agreements to resolve familial disputes with neighboring countries to promote collaboration and global cooperation. In an effort to ease global tension, Japan would be strongly urged to do the same with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada, as these four countries have repeatedly called on Japan to increase efforts to prevent parental abduction.
To read the full article click: Hague Moracco vs. Japan
February 22, 2013
Japan PM Abe Promises Hague Accession, but Leaves Kidnapped U.S. Children Held in Japan
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has arrived in Washington
for a four-day summit with President Obama, bearing yet another promise that Japan will
accede to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. For 30 years,
Japanese officials have said they have been “studying the Hague”. While Japan
studied, one FBI agent estimated in 2009 that 20,000 American children have been
kidnapped from U.S. soil and taken to Japan. Even if Japan finally fulfills its public
promises to sign the Hague, the Treaty will only represent a prevention framework for
future cases. There has been no mention of remedy for, and the Hague will not apply
retroactively to existing cases. In spite of intensely negative press, Congressional
legislation, and several joint demarches in recent years by 10 or more countries
condemning Japan’s apparent policy of state-sanctioned kidnapping, Japan has not yet
acted to remedy any of the long record of existing criminal abductions, or prevent future
abductions of children by its nationals.
Per capita and in real numbers, Japan, a G7 nation, owns the ignominious ranking of #2
in the world in the crime of international child kidnapping, behind Mexico and ahead of
India. Unlike the developing countries of Somalia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, Japan has
never returned a kidnapped child to the U.S. or any other country, through direct legal
or diplomatic means. Over the same 30 years, the only American child ever returned
from an illegal kidnapping to Japan, is Wisconsin native Karina Garcia. Today, Japan’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues efforts to subvert the U.S. law and jurisdiction
governing Karina’s custody. Both U.S. and Japanese courts had previously awarded full
custody to her father, Dr. Moises Garcia.
American parents of children kidnapped from the U.S. to Japan believe there is much
Japan must rectify. In U.S.-to-Japan child kidnappings, Japanese nationals intentionally
broke the law in America and directly defied, with pre-meditation and malice, U.S. court
custody and passport surrender orders, issued under proper U.S. jurisdiction. The
abductors frequently enlisted the assistance of organized crime elements in the
planning and execution of the crimes. Worse, MOFA officials in Japan’s U.S.
Consulates encourage law breaking on their own websites and assist in the crimes
through dubious and unilateral issuance of Japanese passports for U.S. citizen children,
who at the time of their kidnappings were not also citizens of Japan. Upon the
kidnappers’ arrival in Japan at the conclusion of the crimes, the Japanese government
unlawfully claims jurisdiction over the children. When American parents fight back by
seeking the help of the U.S. government, Japan’s government counters by employing
well-paid American lobbyists, lawyers, and agents to lobby Congress and work against
legislation intended to assist the kidnapped American children and U.S. law
enforcement. Routinely, and with no supporting evidence, Japanese officials or
affiliated spokespersons falsely claim that Japanese parents kidnapped the children to
flee abuse, a charge that U.S. parents find deeply offensive, libelous, and damaging to
the children. Global Future condemns all perpetrators of violence and abuse in the
home, regardless of their gender, nationality, or race.
The Japanese government’s apparent endorsement of this set of belligerent actions
reflects poorly on Japan’s image worldwide. Abe, by visiting the U.S., is now in
position to answer for it. Japan’s record of stripping defenseless American children of
their U.S. Constitutional rights raises serious questions about Japan’s true intentions
and worthiness as an ally. When one of our best allies subverts our sovereignty, aids
and abets in the criminal kidnapping and illegal retention of defenseless American
children, outrageously claims jurisdiction over the children after the unlawful acts,
causes lifelong damage to the children and then alienates them by smearing their
parents with false accusations, and employs paid agents to run interference against the
American children and their parents, how much can this supposed ally really be trusted
in any subject of mutual interest? Where is the reciprocity, shared values, and mutual
respect for the rule of law?
Time is the enemy of all of these children. Wrongfully held children in Japan just grow
older and more alienated from their American families, society, culture, and their US civil
and constitutional rights. These mixed race children represent the future of the U.S.-
Japan alliance. They represent the best bridges between our two countries, societies,
and cultures. They need to be protected, cherished, and allowed to thrive. Forcibly
separated from one half of their families, restricted from one parent’s love, care,
guidance, and protection, and brainwashed against them, these children are destined to
Recent events in the China Sea, and in North Korea call us to consider how we will fulfill
our obligations in the alliance on behalf of Japan. Should we really send our service men
and women into harm’s way to protect Japan from Chinese or North Korean threats, if
we can’t trust Japan to rectify the kidnappings of American children for which it is
Through his work on the issue of the abduction of Japanese by North Korea while a
cabinet official under then-Prime Minister Koizumi, Abe knows very well the
devastating effects of abduction. He also knows that North Korea returned surviving
abduction victims to Japan. Abe could likewise rectify the criminal and destructive
behavior of Japanese nationals by returning the kidnapped children to the U.S. and
allowing them to have both parents again, as both parents originally agreed to before
U.S. judges, in U.S. courts of law. We hope Abe will see the long-term benefit to the
alliance of returning the kidnapped children to U.S. He can make a concrete offer to
Obama now regarding open abduction cases, while staying on course to accede to the
Hague. By doing so, he will deepen the alliance, on a basis of mutual respect, trust,
shared values, and family connections.
P.O. Box 861892 Los Angeles, CA 90086 Phone: (213) 392-5872
Global Future advocates for every child’s right to two loving parents.
Contact: Patrick Braden, (213) 392-5872 Global.Future@yahoo.com
Scott Sawyer, (323) 877-9185 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Garcia`s daughter was returned to him (from Japan) in December of 2011. It was a wonderful Christmas present for him. Univision just released a story about Garcia`s fight to get his daughter back. His is the only case of a child being returned (from Japan) through legal means to the country of habitual residence. Click on the link to watch the story (in Spanish).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Published February 19, 2013
In this undated photo, U.S. army sergeant Jeffrey Chafin poses with daughter Eris. (Courtesy of Jeffrey Chafin)
An Army dad whose wife left him and took their daughter to Scotland gained new hope when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the American courts can assert themselves in international custody battles.
In a 9-0 vote that overturned an appeals court decision denying Sgt. Jeffrey Chafin’s bid to get daughter Eris back, the high court rejected the idea that Chafin’s appeal was “moot” because the six-year-old girl had been in Scotland for more than a year. The justices sent the case back to the Florida-based 11th Circuit court, telling the judges there to rule on the merits.
“Such return does not render this case moot; there is a live dispute between the parties over where their child will be raised, and there is a possibility of effectual relief for the prevailing parent,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in the written ruling. “The courts below therefore continue to have jurisdiction to adjudicate the merits of the parties’ respective claims.”
“When you have been done wrong and you’ve been screaming and finally someone hears you. It’s a very good feeling.”
- Jeffrey Chafin
An ecstatic Chafin, who met Lynn Chafin while he was stationed in Germany, but later saw their marriage sour back in the U.S., said he is ready to resume the fight for custody of Eris.
“I’m still in the cloud,” Jeffrey Chafin told FoxNews.com. “When you have been done wrong and you’ve been screaming and finally someone hears you. It’s a very good feeling.
“Now we have a fighting chance.”
Chafin and his attorney said it was frustrating to not get the chance to make their case before the lower court.
“We didn’t have a day in court,” attorney Michael Manely said. “Now the 11th circuit will have to look at the facts of this case. I think the appeals court will look at the facts and see that something doesn’t match up here. This soldier needs the opportunity to have his case heard.”
Roberts said U.S. courts have a role to play, even if Lynn Chafin refuses to cooperate.
“Even if Scotland were to ignore a U.S. re-return order, or decline to assist in enforcing it, this case would not be moot,” he said. “The U.S. courts continue to have personal jurisdiction over Ms. Chafin, may command her to take action even outside the United States, and may back up any such command with sanctions … Enforcement of the order may be uncertain if Ms. Chafin chooses to defy it, but such uncertainty does not typically render cases moot.”
The couple married in 2006 and Eris was born a year later. They were living in Germany where Jeffrey was stationed until he was deployed to Afghanistan. Lynne and their daughter had moved to Scotland until Jeffrey was transferred to Alabama in 2009. He was joined by his family the following year, but the couple divorced in 2010 and Lynne was deported a year later.
Chafin’s case is the latest high-profile custody battle involving a U.S. father and a mother who whisked their child away overseas.
- In 2008, Iraq War veteran Michael Elias was separated from his 4-year-old daughter, Jade, and 2-year-old son, Michael, when his wife illegally took the children from their New Jersey home back to her native Japan. Elias lost all rights to see his children or have them return stateside due to Japan’s government not signing and abiding by the Hague Convention, which includes regulations on the civil aspects of international child abduction.
- In 2004, then 4-year-old Sean Goldman of New Jersey, went with his mother Bruna Bianchi back to her native Brazil for a two-week-vacation. When she did not return , a custody battle began between Bianchi and Sean’s father David Goldman. Bianchi remarried in Brazil in 2007, but died a year later while giving birth. Her new husband was granted a custody order by the Brazilian court, but Goldman won custody of the boy in December 2009.
- New York City photographer Michael McCarty has fought since 2007 for custody of his son Liam, after his ex-wife took the boy to her native Italy. Despite Liam’s mother, Manuela Antonelli, being declared unfit to care for her child and McCarty having been given full legal custody, child services officials in Italy have refused to give McCarty his son back.
Citizen’s Network for Japanese Filipino Children
<Establishment> 1994 May
<Our Aim> We are a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Tokyo. We support Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC) who are born to Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers. The numbers of Filipino women who come to Japan for working have increased since 1980’s. Many of them met Japanese men and the numbers of children between Filipino women and Japanese men have increased as well. Some of those children are in difficulty because of lack of supports from their father. Although they have different circumstances, one thing common among those children is that they had lost communication and necessary support from their fathers. We accept cases from those mothers and caregivers of such JFC both at Tokyo office and Maligaya House, our branch office in Manila.
1)Para-legal assistance for the Paternal Recognition, Child Support, acquisition of Japanese Nationality, mediation/law suit for divorce, Special Permission of Residence, etc.
3)Japanese lesson for JFC mother
4)Tutorial services for JFC
5)Study tour to the Philippines
6)Publishing of quarterly newsletter “Maligaya”
15 minutes from Shinjuku Station (JR line)
Manila Branch (Maligaya House)
<Establishment> 1998 January
1)Case registration and management
2)Psycho-social workshops for JFC and mothers/carcgivers
3)Japanese Lesson for JFC
Metro Manila, Philippines
TEL/FAX: (63-2) 913-8913
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Omaha resident Gary Owens pounded the table and raised his voice Wednesday as he testified before Nebraska lawmakers, demanding they pass two bills that could allow him to spend more time with his son.
A coalition of fathers, doctors and family-law attorneys is asking lawmakers to change a Nebraska parental custody law that they view as unfair to men.
The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee had to open an overflow room to accommodate the advocates who testified in support for two parental custody bills.
“Men should have a right to have custody of their children just as much as their mothers,” Owens said.
Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber introduced the first measure that would create a legal presumption that both parents are entitled to at least 45 percent of the total parenting time. If the parents disagree on this, one parent would have to prove with a preponderance of evidence that parenting time should shift in favor of one parent. He said studies show children who spend less than 35 percent of their time with a parent have diminished physical and mental health.
The legislation is modeled after a measure recently passed in Minnesota but later vetoed by the governor. The bill would have increased the amount of time each parent gets with a child from 25 percent to 35 percent.
Karpisek grew up in a divorced family and is a recently divorced parent. He said he and his wife share parenting time and that his children are doing well because of it.
The second bill, introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, would change provisions of the Parenting Act to say it is in the best interest of the child to have substantial parenting time with both parents, and that both parents should be equally involved in making decisions involving the child. This bill is modeled after Arizona legislation that went into effect this year. Ten states have provisions that say joint custody is in the best interest of the child.
“The time has passed when the sex of the parent is the determining factor,” Hadley said.
However, a legal group for Nebraskans, attorneys and advocated for domestic violence victims opposed the bills, saying they would create more family fighting, reduce child support most mothers receive and could reduce public benefits for poor households. Advocates for domestic violence victims worried women in such situations would have a harder time protecting themselves and their children.
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln worried about the impact Karpisek’s bill would have on child support payments. Karpisek said he didn’t introduce the bill to help dads get out of paying child support.
Hasting family law attorney Chris Johnson said judges would take into account the number of days the child spends with each parent and the parents’ income to decide who should pay child support and how much should be paid.
“I don’t care about the child support,” Owens said. “Take all my money. I don’t care. I want my son.”
Omaha 13-year-old Sydney Morehouse asked the lawmakers Wednesday to pass the bills that would help her spend more time with her dad. Before the hearing, she burst into tears when she talked about how hard it is to only get to see her dad every other weekend and Wednesday nights. She hates shuffling between two households and not feeling settled at her dad’s house.
Her dad, Curt Morehouse, said he has been fighting to get more time with her since she was a baby. He also heads a father’s rights group to help divorced dads gain more time with their children.
“I’m not a bad person,” he said. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to see her more.”
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Widner Family Law deals with divorce. They have a radio program called “Divorce Rescue Radio” which is on every Sunday night. During this episode they spend a lot of time talking about Parental Alienation.
Dr. Richard Warshak is on this program. The show is full of great information from some very knowledgeable people. You can listen to the program clicking on the link: http://divorce-rescue-radio-talk-showRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Child custody injustices hard to fix Joining Hague may curb parental abductions if legal mindset evolves
Friday, Jan. 4, 2013
By MASAMI ITO
On May 6, 2010, Yasuyuki Watanabe, an internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, came home to find his wife and 2-year old daughter gone, along with their clothes.
Playing catchup: Yasuyuki Watanabe, deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, speaks during an interview at a Tokyo hotel on Dec. 11. SATOKO KAWASAKI
His wife had spirited away their daughter near the end of Golden Week, just days after he was enjoying the holidays taking her on hikes and to local festivals, recalled Watanabe, 40, now deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. He recounted how he carried his daughter on his back and how they sang songs together until she fell asleep, snuggling against him.
His world was turned upside down that fateful day. Last month she turned 5.
“It is so important for children to feel loved by both parents, especially when they are growing up, and I think that my daughter feels abandoned by me, that I left her because I didn’t love her anymore,” Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview in Tokyo. “The most painful thing about my situation is when I think about how my daughter must be feeling.”
Watanabe is one of many parents in Japan who have been torn away from their children after a falling-out with their spouse in a nation that grants only sole custody, usually to the mother, and where it is customary for parents not living with their offspring, to have little, if any, contact with them.
This has also been a widely reported harsh reality for foreign parents, including those living overseas whose children have been taken to Japan by estranged Japanese spouses.
These so-called parental child abductions are behind growing calls for Japan to join the international Hague treaty to prevent such cross-border kidnappings.
“These two problems are actually closely related because the domestic and international situation is the same — your children are abducted one day out of the blue and you are forbidden from seeing them,” Watanabe said.
For Watanabe, what followed was a long legal battle with his wife, and divorce proceedings, which continue.
Initially his wife let him see their daughter a few times, but that stopped abruptly when he was slapped with domestic violence charges — which he branded a lie.
His wife alleged he had threatened her with a large pair of scissors while she was pregnant and told her he knew yakuza who would be willing to help him out with the situation by pushing her off a station platform in front of a train. The violence charges were later dropped.
“There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an order to appear before the court over ‘DV’ allegations. I was completely distraught. The judge, however, recognized that much of her claims were questionable and warned she could be charged with false accusations, so she dropped the charges the day before the ruling was to be made,” Watanabe said.
But his wife then filed a lawsuit, demanding custody of their child and, again, adding allegations of abuse.
Last February, presiding Judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi at the Chiba Family Court granted Watanabe’s ex-wife custody of their daughter from the viewpoint of “continuity,” ruled that Watanabe had committed domestic violence and rejected his demand that his daughter be returned. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in September.
While his legal battles dragged on, Watanabe asked lawmakers to address the issue and his case was deliberated on in the Diet.
Given his public profile, Watanabe originally wished to remain anonymous. But to garner public support for his situation, he recently came forward to tell his story to the press.
“I’ve been labeled a DV husband, and the judge completely ignored the facts and the law in my case. I had no choice but to stand up and fight,” he said.
Watanabe has solicited the help of a special group of lawmakers who are trying to get Judge Wakabayashi fired from the bench. Among the so-called left-behind parents in Japan, Wakabayashi has spurred widespread ire, especially when in 2011, he criticized then-Justice Minister Satsuki Eda for telling the Diet that priority should be placed on the welfare of the child rather than the “principle of continuity.”
“There are many people in similar situations. I cannot give up for their sake. It is not just about me and my daughter. This is a battle for all children and their parents,” Watanabe said.
According to data compiled by family courts, there were 409 parents seeking the return of their offspring from an estranged spouse in 2001, whereas by 2011, there were 1,985 parents seeking to get their kids back. The numbers, however, reflect only the legal cases filed by left-behind parents that were officially accepted by the nation’s family courts. Experts speculate they constitute only the tip of the iceberg.
Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law at Waseda University, said various factors are behind the increase in parental child abductions, including Japan’s sole custody principle and the current legal framework that generally grants that right to mothers.
“Times have changed — fathers are more involved in child-rearing, and the legal system — including the principle of sole custody — makes battles over children more likely to happen. I think this part of Japan’s legal system is outdated,” Tanamura said.
One major difference that makes Japan’s legal system peculiar is that when an estranged spouse initially takes a child, it isn’t considered a crime. This is because it is common for an estranged parent, generally the mother, to take the children to her parents’ domicile if a divorce is being contemplated.
But if the left-behind parent then subsequently tries to retrieve the offspring spirited away from their home, the action is considered kidnapping. Tanamura claimed there are many cases in which parents who spirit offspring away are unaware such action could be construed as abduction. From their point of view, they are merely considering a divorce or fleeing an abusive environment.
“It is hard to label all parental kidnappings as illegal . . . but at the same time, there are many cases that could constitute a double standard. It’s OK for mothers to first take the children away, but when the fathers try to get them back, this is illegal,” Tanamura said. “This is based on the longtime concept that children belong with their mothers.”
To prevent children from losing access to both parents after a separation, Article 766 of the Civil Law was revised in 2011 to specify that visitation rights, child-support payments and other matters be determined during nonlitigated divorce proceedings, and that the welfare of the child be considered first.
But even this change can’t help people like Watanabe because his case was ruled on after the amendment. “The aim of the revision is to promote forming agreements (over child care) when getting a divorce. But there is nothing that guarantees compliance,” Tanamura said.
Tanamura and other experts thus agree that if and when Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it must at the same time institute fundamental changes in the legal system, and the public mindset must also be overhauled, or joining the convention will lead to naught.
John Gomez, chairman of the recently founded Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, friends and supporters advocating the right of children to have access to both parents, emphasized the need for left-behinds to cooperate because simply joining the Hague Convention will not solve anything in Japan if it continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights.
“The problem of international cases and in-country cases has the same root cause — Japanese family law and the courts,” Gomez said.
“The abduction issue affects all people in Japan — mothers as well as fathers, Japanese as well as non-Japanese.”
The Hague treaty aims for the swift return of children wrongfully taken out of the country of their “habitual residence” by a parent to prevent cross-border parental kidnappings. Of the Group of Eight countries, Japan is the only nation yet to sign the convention.
Japan has been under pressure from member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, to join the convention, but it has been reluctant, given strong domestic opposition, especially from Japanese mothers who claim they fled to Japan with their children to protect themselves from abusive ex-spouses.
Facing severe criticism from the international community, however, Japan finally reached the point of submitting a bid to sign the treaty and Hague-related legislation to the Diet during the last session presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan. But the politicians instead spent most of their time bickering over internal power struggles related to other domestic issues, pushing the Hague Convention to the sidelines once again.
And it remains unclear whether the issue will move forward under the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party.
Government officials have expressed confidence that once deliberations begin, the Hague bid will be approved by the Diet. But parents, including Gomez, a longtime Japan resident who himself is separated from his Japanese wife and is having difficulty seeing his daughter, say joining the Hague treaty is only a step in the right direction, not a silver bullet.
Gomez explained that on the legal front, parental kidnappings must be stopped, visitation rights made enforceable and the idea of joint custody introduced. But he added that public awareness must also be raised at the same time so the public understands the benefits of the changes to ensure the rules are followed.
“The Hague is only one tool. The ultimate goal for us is a social and legal transformation of Japan . . . a complete transformation in terms of mindset and practice,” Gomez said. “We firmly believe, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, that the social and legal transformation is for the betterment of Japanese society and children and improvement in the quality of life.”
Lawdiva’s Blog – Canadian Lawyer Georgialee Lang – Her recent story on Parental Alienation
There are many divorced fathers in Canada who believe they are nothing more than a “wallet” in their children’s eyes. It is rare however, for a judge to confirm that status in Reasons for Judgment, but that is exactly what Mr. Justice Gray did in his recent decision in Veneman v. Veneman 2012 ONSC 6324.
Mr. and Mrs. Veneman separated in 2004 after 11 years of marriage. Mr. Veneman left the family home but maintained the financial status quo and enjoyed a good relationship with the children, ages 8 and 11.
The apparent bliss of separation disappeared, however, when Mr. Veneman commenced a personal relationship with a woman he met on the internet. His ex-wife’s reaction was venomous as revealed in vulgar emails from her to Mr. Veneman where she called his girlfriend an “internet whore”.
At about the same time, Mr. Veneman decided that after two years of separation, the parties should reorganize their financial affairs. He closed the joint account that his wife and he shared since the date of separation and began paying voluntary child and spousal support.
Ms. Veneman’s campaign of abuse against Mr. Veneman was quickly adopted by his two girls who also began writing mean-spirited and disrespectful emails to their father. The children were particularly angered by their father when he brought his girlfriend to a birthday party for one of the girls hosted by the girl’s paternal grandparent. This was the first occasion they had met her, although Mr. Veneman told his children about her and their relationship.
As time went on, the girls also sent emails scolding their father for failing to provide sufficient funds to their mother. The Court found that Ms. Veneman liberally shared her views about his girlfriend and his financial contribution, all actions which eventually led to the termination of any father/daughter relationship.
Eldest daughter Maggie described her father in an email to him as “selfish, greedy, lying, back-stabbing, neglecting, blackmailing, bribing, idiotic, mean and just overall a stupid person”. This kind of poison most often originates from a parent who cannot see that their attitude is severely harming their children.
Despite the difficulties, Mr. Veneman continued to make every effort to reconnect and appease his children but all overtures were rebuffed by them.
With his older daughter approaching the age of nineteen and attending Queen’s University, Mr. Veneman brought an application to court asking for an order that his obligation to pay child support cease upon her birthday.
Several years earlier, he had agreed to an order that he pay 75% of his children’s post-secondary education costs, but he now argued that her termination of any relationship with him was cause for the court to reconsider his child support obligations.
Mr. Veneman relied on several cases where courts noted that an adult child’s unilateral and unreasoned abandonment of a parental relationship could lead to a termination of support. Other cases, however, were cited where the proposition was accepted that “estrangement, even at the sole instance of the child, should not be relevant”.
Judge Gray, however, did not need to grapple with which authority was correct as he was able to decide the case by finding that the father had not shown a material change in circumstances, which was the required test to vary a child support order. The judge held that when Mr. Veneman agreed to pay post-secondary expenses in 2009, he had no relationship with Maggie, and had no relationship now.
He declared that Mr. Veneman “was nothing more than a wallet” and said the blame for the alienation must be assumed by both parents.
It is here where I part company with the judge’s findings. It is startling to suggest that the clumsy, perhaps even insensitive, introduction of a new partner to one’s children who are 10 and 13, after two years of separation from their mother, constitutes conduct that is blameworthy.
In my view, Ms. Veneman’s immature behavior is the reason her children have ousted their father from their lives. I hope when the girls figure it out, which they will, they will clearly understand their mother’s role in a tragic family situation the judge called “irrational and avoidable”.
Interesting that if you are part of an intact family you can decide how much you want to contribute, if any, to your child’s education, but if you are separated or divorced the State decides.
Equally interesting is the absence of any reference to “parental alienation”. I guess if you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist.
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By GeorgiaLee Lang http://lawdiva.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/no-au-revoir-for-halle-berry/
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will not be allowed to move permanently to France with her four-year-old daughter Nahla Ariela Aubry, a ruling made on Friday by a California judge. Nahla’s father, Gabriel Aubry is a Canadian actor and model who lives and works in Los Angeles.
Ms. Berry has battled Nahla’s father since the couple separated in 2010, pulling out the usual grab-bag of custody tricks, including her refusal to pay child support to him, later rectified by a judge who ordered that she pay $20,000 to Mr. Aubry as a joint custodial parent. There was also a failed attempt to suggest that Mr. Aubry has been “physical” with Nahla’s nanny. After a complete investigation, accompanied by a period of supervised access for Mr. Aubry, the allegations were thrown out.
When a parent applies to the court to move permanently with a child to a jurisdiction far away from home and the child’s other parent, there are a number of considerations that come into play. Is the move in the child’s best interests? The factors include:
1. Will the child be able to maintain a relationship with the left-behind parent?
2. Will the quality of the relationship with the left-behind parent be sufficient to continue the parental bond?
3. How far will the child and left-behind parent have to travel to maintain their relationship?
4. How much will it cost for the left-behind parent to travel to visit the child and who will pay the expenses?
5. Will the change in the child’s permanent residence impact on the involvement of extended family in the child’s life, such as maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?
6. Will the move enhance the child and moving parent’s quality of life in regards to better opportunities for financial security?
7. Is the motive for the move an attempt to minimize parenting time to the other parent?
Ms. Berry’s rationale for the move is that she did not want her daughter growing up around paparazzi and the tabloids, arguing that she could provide more privacy, and a greater sense of security for her daughter in France, where coincidentally, her latest boyfriend lives.
Ms. Berry must have forgotten that Princess Diana’s death was attributed to overzealous paparazzi in Paris and that Kate Middleton’s recent nude photos were taken in France, by a local celebrity photographer. I’m sure Mr. Aubry’s lawyer remembered.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Less than 50 percent of divorcing couples have planned for such matters as child support and visitation rights since the revised Civil Code was implemented in April, which requires couples with small children to do so, according to the Justice Ministry.
As local governments accept divorce applications without making couples declare such arrangements, the effectiveness of the revision has often been questioned.
The ministry collected its first statistics on the issue during the first quarter since the revision came into force. The results reflect the difficulty couples face in reaching an agreement on child-related matters.
In tandem with the implementation of the revised code, the ministry in April added items to the divorce application form asking couples with young children to verify they have come to an accord on certain issues. This includes whether they have agreed on visitation arrangements for the noncustodial parent and how child support will be handled.
According to the ministry, 32,757 couples with young children mutually consented to file for divorce from April to June. Among them, 15,622, or 48 percent, indicated they had made arrangements regarding visitation for the noncustodial parent, and 6,843, or 21 percent, had not. The remaining 31 percent did not check any boxes.
Concerning payment of child support by noncustodial parents, 16,075 couples, or 49 percent, had made a decision on the matter, while 6,316, or 19 percent, had not. The other 32 percent left the boxes blank.
In 2011, about 235,700 couples got divorced, with about 90 percent of them doing so by mutual consent. Still, there have been many problems concerning the handling of these child-related matters after divorce.
“It’s necessary for couples to reach an accord [on such matters] for their children’s sake,” said Noriko Mizuno, a Civil Code professor at Tohoku University.
“In Western countries and South Korea, couples are not allowed to get divorced unless they agree on a plan to raise their children and the plan is approved by the court. In Japan, it’s not sufficient to simply check whether parents have come to an agreement on such matters. We must also create a system to verify their decisions really serve the best interests of the child and enforce them if so.”
(Sep. 15, 2012)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
More than 30 petitions have been filed with family courts mainly in the metropolitan and Kansai regions to seek suspension of parental custody due to child abuse since a revision of the Civil Code came into effect in April.
Of the total, three out of six petitions filed by heads of child consultation centers have been granted and two led to temporary injunction, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
Separately, a minor who has been taken into protective custody due to abuse from her parents filed a petition for suspension of parental custody and won a provisional injunction, representing the first case in which a child abuse victim has independently sought suspension of parental custody under the revised Civil Code and won a temporary injunction.
The Mainichi interviewed officials with child consultation centers and local governments in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, 20 government-designated municipalities and two major urban cities and received responses from certain family courts in big cities.
Many of the petitioners are believed to be relatives of child abuse victims, but a girl in her late teens filed a petition with a family court in the Chubu region through her lawyer in mid-June and won a temporary injunction nine days later.
The girl was sexually victimized by her mother’s new partner and placed in protective custody at a children’s nursing home when she was a junior high school student. She pleaded her plight to her mother who allegedly turned a deaf ear to her plea. The girl repeatedly harmed herself even at the children’s nursing home due to her traumatic experience.
Assisted by a lawyer who was introduced to her by a support group and others, she graduated from high school, left the nursing home and went on studying while working. The nursing home chief acted as her guardian and helped her go on to study and secure a place to live as guarantor because her mother could not be located.
But she had to get parental consent to be eligible for tuition reductions and exemptions and an application for school admission by summer this year. The girl refused to accept her mother as a parent, prompting her lawyer to find her mother and asking her to waive her parental rights. Her mother agreed to do so but was not contactable again, leading her daughter to file the petition to seek suspension of parental custody.
The lawyer said, “One should avoid filing a petition lightly, but minors cannot sign a contract to even buy a cell phone without parental consent. It is of great significance that the law revision has allowed her to file a petition by herself.”
Meanwhile, a family court in June granted suspension of parental custody in connection with a teenager who has been placed in protective custody at a child consultation center in the Kansai region. The center head filed the petition for fear that the child may not get a proper education and become independent due to protracted paperwork.
In other cases, family courts issued temporary injunctions because parents failed to help their children with necessary treatment.
Jun. 16, 2012 – OSAKA —
A Nicaraguan-born man who lives in the U.S. state of Wisconsin has been awarded custody of his 9-year-old daughter, ending a four-year court battle with his former Japanese wife.
Moises Garcia married Emiko Inoue in 2002 and settled in Wisconsin where their daughter Karina was born the same year.
However, Emiko took the girl with her to Japan in 2008 against her husband’s wishes. Garcia fought passionately—and spent about $350,000—to get his daughter back. The liver transplant doctor learned to speak Japanese so he could communicate with a daughter whose English was slipping away.
He hired lawyers in Japan and flew across the Pacific nine times to press his case and try to see his daughter. He enlisted the help of the U.S. State Department and his native Nicaragua. He became active in an advocacy group—Global Future—run by U.S. parents whose children were taken to Japan.
Garcia won a major victory in 2009 when the Japanese courts—which did not recognize the U.S. court that granted Garcia full custody—determined he should have visitation rights. And he kept fighting when his ex-wife appealed and the case dragged on for years.
In all that time, he only saw his daughter three times. The longest visit was for just under two hours at a hotel restaurant. Another visit lasted 10 short minutes at a school open house.
The Osaka High Court, in handing down its ruling, said that Karina had become used to life in the United States with her father and that forcibly returning her to Japan now would be bad for her.
Karina is the first U.S. child abducted by a Japanese parent who was returned to the United States with the aid of the court system.
Her case remains an anomaly, however, because Karina likely never would have been returned if her mother hadn’t flown to Hawaii in April 2011 and been arrested on child abduction charges.
Inoue spent months in a Wisconsin jail until she reached a plea deal with prosecutors: her parents would send Karina home to Garcia and Inoue would be given probation instead of a lengthy prison sentence.
Until laws change in Japan—and family courts gain the power to enforce custody rights—it will be nearly impossible for other parents to be reunited with their children, Garcia said.
“When my ex-wife was arrested, we finally got the enforcement that was missing from the Japanese courts,” he said at a press conference in a Milwaukee hotel. “If my ex-wife had never been arrested, Karina’s alienation would have been completed.”
Japan Today/AFPRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Politics Apr. 18, 2012 – WASHINGTON —
U.S. President Barack Obama will host Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Washington on April 30, for their first meeting since North Korea’s rocket launch, the White House said Tuesday.
Obama wants to address a “wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the U.S.-Japan security alliance, economic and trade issues, and deepening bilateral cooperation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“The two leaders will also discuss regional and global security concerns,” Carney said in a statement—with North Korea’s rocket launch likely high on that agenda.
The April 30 meeting will be the second one-on-one talks between the two leaders, and the first at the White House. Noda took office in August 2011.
The last meeting took place in September last year on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, in which both were taking part.
North Korea claimed its rocket launch last week was to put a satellite into orbit as part of celebrations to mark the centennial of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung, as his young grandson Kim Jong-Un takes the reins of power.
The United States and its allies, however, said it was a disguised long-range ballistic missile test banned under UN resolutions.
The test ended in failure, with the rocket disintegrating in mid-air soon after blast-off and plunging into the sea in a major embarrassment for the reclusive state.
And the U.N. Security Council responded by tightening sanctions on Pyongyang, warning of new action if the isolated state stages a nuclear test.
The United States and Japan are both party to long-stalled six-way negotiations on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear drive, along with China, Russia, and the two Koreas.
Carney said after the launch that Washington “remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and is fully committed to the security of our allies in the region.”
The United States also confirmed it would not go forward with an already suspended deal to send food aid to North Korea.
Japan and the United States have differed on Iran, upon which Washington has imposed crippling economic sanctions over its suspect nuclear program. But last month, the Pacific allies came to a compromise.
Noda has said Tokyo would strive to reduce its oil imports from the Islamic republic, while the United States last month said it was exempting Japan and some European Union members from tough new sanctions aimed at Tehran.
The United States has also pressed Japan on child abductions, urging it to sign the 1980 Hague treaty that requires countries to return children to the countries where they usually live.
Japanese courts virtually never award custody to foreign parents, especially men, and authorities have never returned overseas a child snatched to Japan.
U.S. parents have pursued more than 120 cases to seek access to their half-Japanese children.
Under growing foreign pressure, leaders in Tokyo have voiced support for signing the Hague convention, but it would only apply to future cases.
© 2012 AFPRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Mar. 28, 2012 – WASHINGTON
A U.S. congressional panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would punish nations for not addressing child abductions, putting pressure on Japan which has never returned a child to foreign parents.
The House foreign affairs subcommittee on human rights approved a bill that would pave the way to call off cultural or scientific exchanges or deny export licenses to countries that do not promptly seek to resolve abduction cases.
“Our current system with its endless delays and lack of proper accountability has failed too many,” said Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and chairman of the subcommittee.
“It is time for an approach that backs our demands for adherence to international obligations with penalties and makes very clear to foes and friends alike that our children are our priority,” he said.
The measure still needs approval from the full committee and House of Representatives along with the Senate to become law.
While the bill would apply to all countries, the United States has the most pending cases with Japan where U.S. parents have pursued more than 120 cases to seek access to their half-Japanese children.
Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, especially men, and authorities have never returned overseas a child snatched to Japan.
Japan long argued that it is protecting women from abuse. But under growing foreign pressure, Japanese leaders have voiced support for ratifying the 1980 Hague convention that requires countries to return children to the country where they usually live.
But even if Japan signed the treaty, it would only apply to future cases.
Doug Berg, who served with the U.S. military in Japan, said that his two children were abducted in 2009 and that he has not heard from them even after last year’s devastating tsunami.
“The only time I ever get to see them, really, is when I dream about them. I don’t know where they’re living. I’m not allowed to know,” he said.
“That’s a shame that we call that country an ally of ours,” he said.
The bill would call on the president to make a diplomatic demarche to another country if a child abduction case is pending for more than six weeks.
If a country has 10 or more cases pending, the United States could take tougher action such as refusing to grant export licenses for goods, withholding aid and canceling exchanges or official visits.
Japan TodayRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I am writing in response to a series of articles in the Japan Times about children being raised by relatives after the tsunami. First, I would like to say that I feel for all of the people who lost their lives in the tsunami disaster in March of 2011. It is was a tragedy for so many. Children, parents, grandparents, and relatives were left to cope with unprecedented loss. However, I am writing about the use of a particular word and that word is “orphan”.
In one story the father and mother both died in the tsunami (very tragic). In the other 2 stories it appears the fathers were never in the picture. One story mentions divorce and the second story never mentions the father at all. Neither of these stories elaborate on why the father was out of the picture. Was it his choice to leave? Did the mother refuse to let her ex-husband see his son? If the latter is true then we could say the mother orphaned the boy because she cut off all contact with his father. (In my opinion one story implies that the loss of one parent makes you an orphan)
Perhaps the father chose to leave. He may or may not have wanted to contact his son any longer. If this is true then we could say the father orphaned his son.
In my personal opinion it is better to say that Japanese policy orphans children. When people divorce in Japan only one parent is given custody. Due to this policy thousands of children become orphaned every year. That is, thousands of children loose contact with one parent every year due to divorce.
According to these articles if one parent dies then you are an orphan. I feel an orphan is a child who has experienced the death of both biological parents. (This is true in 1 of these 3 stories). Two of these children presumably have biological fathers out there and perhaps extended family that would like to help out. When I began to write this article my intention was not to undermine the loss/death of a parent, child, or relative. My intention was to underscore the importance of family. Japanese policy does not encourage nor allow children to remain in contact with extended family after divorce. Children are “orphaned” due to outdated laws and bureaucratic complacency. If Japanese policy allowed for joint custody, these children would still probably have a father and grandparents on the father’s side of the family that could help raise and support these children. Children are the foundation of our future. The more love children receive from extended family the better. I really hope bureaucrats and politicians wake up and draft laws that allow children to see both parents. The future of Japan depends on it.
To read the articles, please click on the links.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
More stories and more news programs are popping up these days. Japan is moving toward signing the Hague. Unfortunately, they have already built in loopholes so that no children will have to be returned from Japan to their habitual residence. Parents within Japan are also working hard to get legislation passed that will allow children to meet with both parents. The media has been covering more stories related to these issues. While these stories are often a bit slanted they are never the less making it into the news. More people are slowly becoming aware of the problems surrounding the family courts and their ineffectiveness to deal with custody issues. Below are 4 links, 2 focus on the Hague and the other 2 are related to kids not being able to see both parents.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By MANABU SASAKI / Staff Writer Asahi Shimbun
A woman who has not seen her two children since March, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, is starting to give up hope of ever seeing her sons again.
The woman’s apartment still contains the brand-new jacket and school bag that her older son would have used if he had entered elementary school in April. The mother, a civil servant, also finds herself searching for her two sons in her apartment when she returns home from work, despite knowing deep inside that her home is empty.
But it wasn’t the quake or tsunami that separated her from the boys, aged 5 and 7.
“It is like a kidnapping,” said the woman, who lives in the Tokai region.
The boys are now in the United States with the woman’s American husband, who has refused to return to Japan, citing radiation fears. He has also filed for divorce.
There is very little she can do to win custody of the children because the Japanese government has not passed the necessary legislation to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Under the convention, if a parent illegally flees with a child under 16 to another nation, the child has to be returned to the former nation of residence.
Tokyo signaled its intention to ratify the treaty after a number of high-profile cases involving Japanese mothers taking their children to Japan without the consent of their foreign ex-spouses or in defiance of court orders.
But since the Fukushima nuclear accident started in March, Foreign Ministry officials have received a number of inquiries from Japanese parents whose spouses have left Japan for their home nations with their children in tow, using the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as an excuse not to return.
About the only thing ministry officials can do is pass on lists of lawyers in the foreign nations where the spouse has gone to.
“We feel sorry for the parents because this is a form of negative publicity from the nuclear accident,” a ministry official said. “We hope the couples will hold calm discussions based on objective information about radiation.”
The Tokai woman’s husband in March took the boys to the United States for what was supposed to have been a one-month visit. But the Great East Japan Earthquake soon struck, and the husband refused to return to Japan, expressing concerns that the sons could be exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Daily reports in the United States showed the damage from the quake and tsunami. Nuclear experts often appeared on TV citing the dangers of the radiation spewing from the Fukushima plant.
The woman used a TV phone over the Internet to talk with her husband and children, trying to convince them that the Tokai region was safe.
But the children, perhaps influenced by their father, also expressed concerns about the danger of waves flowing inland as well as poison in the air.
The husband initially said he would return to Japan once the situation at the nuclear plant stabilized. However, by summer, he had withdrawn about $17,000 from his wife’s bank account and had rented an apartment in the United States.
In November, he filed a lawsuit in the United States seeking a divorce. He did not abide by his initial promise even after the Japanese government declared the situation at the Fukushima plant to be under control.
The woman met her future husband in 2001, when she was studying in New York. They were married the following year.
The husband was still a student, and living in New York was not economically feasible. So the couple decided to move to Japan with the wife working to support the family.
But now, she lacks any assurance of finding a stable job in the United States. She feels the possibility is low that she would be granted custody of the children under such conditions.
She has consulted with a U.S. office handling inquiries about abducted children. If Japan had joined the Hague Convention, the United States would have been obligated to return her children to Japan as a member of the convention, the office told her.
But Japan has not yet joined, leaving her and her children uncovered for protection under the convention.
She also consulted a lawyer in the United States because she felt the only way to get her children back was through a lawsuit of her own. But she was told that U.S. courts looked at how the children were being raised over the most recent six months. That would put her at a disadvantage because she had been separated from her children since the natural disasters.
Having allowed her children to remain in the United States because of radiation fears ended up working against her.
A court case in the United States can be time-consuming and costly, and she has no guarantee of winning.
Through letters and phone calls, she repeatedly tells her two children that they mean everything to her, but she has no idea when she may see them again.
“I hope the government joins the convention as soon as possible to prevent parents from successfully fleeing with their children,” she said.
Officials said there have been cases of lawyers recommending that parents flee Japan with their children because there is a good chance they can get away with it.
“Custody battles with a foreign nation should be resolved through international rules after joining the Hague Convention,” said Mikiko Otani, a lawyer who specializes in divorces among international couples. “It is extremely difficult for an individual to find a lawyer in a foreign nation specializing in such matters and proceeding with legal action.”
She also said many parents in Japan face difficulties because there are few lawyers knowledgeable about international divorce cases.
“There are risks involved in international marriage because of differences in laws and cultures,” Otani said. “There are also major differences in thinking on divorce and custody, so there is a need to be aware of the need for a basic understanding of the related laws.”
Colin P.A. Jones
Professor, Doshisha University Law School
(Photo by Shinchosha)
Japan has developed a growing reputation as a haven for international parental child abduction. Major media outlets in the United States and other countries have brought attention to a number of recent cases of children being unilaterally removed by a Japanese parent from the United States before or after divorce, often in violation of American law and court orders.
Attempts to achieve the return of children taken to Japan through the Japanese legal system tend to be unsuccessful. As a result, some children who were born and raised in the United States have lost all contact with an American parent and other relatives, American friends, and the American part of their heritage as a consequence. The apparent lack of legal remedies for abduction in Japan is due to a number of factors that are discussed in more detail below.
Child abduction as more than just an “international” problem
From the outset it is important to understand that most of the factors which prevent the return of children taken from other countries also affect cases arising entirely within Japan, including some involving Americans married to Japanese nationals and living in Japan, and even the occasional case where both parents are foreign residents of Japan. In these strictly domestic cases also, marital breakdown all too often results in parents losing all contact with their children, notwithstanding the involvement of Japanese courts.
In other words, even though international cases tend to receive more publicity, they merely reflect structural issues in the Japanese legal system which have the effect of limiting the legal remedies of Japanese and non-Japanese parents alike. Thus, just as U.S. and other diplomats have sought change in the way cross-border abductions are dealt with by encouraging Japan to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, a variety of Japanese parents’ rights groups have been seeking better protection of the parent-child relationship after divorce by lobbying for amendments to Japanese family law.
Despite the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 and subsequent nuclear crisis in Fukushima, there are encouraging signs that Japan will soon move towards ratifying the Hague Convention. In May of 2011 the Diet also made encouraging amendments to its domestic laws relating to visitation after parental separation. Since these amendments have not yet taken effect (and may have a limited impact), this article will discuss both the law as it was – and had been for decades, as well as the nature of these changes.
The role of law in Japan
The Japanese legal system is based heavily on foreign models – German and French codes and institutions in many instances, but the United States as well in the case of its constitution and many areas of business law. Indeed, it is possible to describe Japanese family law and how Japanese courts resolve child custody issues in terms that make it seem quite similar to the United States or other Western countries. However, the law in Japan is much more “top down” than it is in the United States, where many important doctrines have been built through the ground up through litigation. By contrast, in Japan the law is more likely to be a medium for expressing and exercising authority, and judges (authority figures themselves) are less likely to question the exercise of that authority. The top-down character of Japanese law can be seen in statutes and procedural regimes which preserve maximum flexibility for judges and other government officials in terms of what they may do, while limiting the range of things that they must do.
Is parental child abduction a crime?
U.S. citizen parents whose children who have been abducted to Japan are likely to be told by Japanese officials that under Japanese law it is not a crime for parents to “abduct” their own children. However, there have been instances of Japanese and foreign parents being arrested, even convicted – for kidnapping their own children. Article 224 of the Japanese Penal Code describes the crime of “abduction of a minor” in very sparse terms: “[a] person who kidnaps a minor by force or enticement shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not less than 3 months but not more than 7 years.” An American lawyer reading this would probably seek more information on how the terms “kidnap,” “force,” and “enticement” are interpreted and would probably look to case law for guidance. But court precedents are not likely to be as useful for interpreting statutes such as this, at least not to the same degree as they would in the United States.
As a result, both the characterization of parental abduction as a non-crime and the arrest of some parents for criminal abduction can co-exist as “correct” interpretations of Japanese law. An abduction which disrupts public order (a father grabbing his children off the street) may be treated as a crime, while those which do not (a mother getting on a plane or a train with her children to go live with her parents, or merely refusing to return to the United States after a visit to Japan with the children) probably will not. Japanese law enforcement authorities have a basic policy of not getting involved in “civil disputes” but also wide discretion in deciding if a particular dispute is a civil one or not, meaning that the most important determination about whether a particular case of abduction is a crime or not may be made at the police station rather than the courthouse.
Custody determinations as an administrative disposition
Similarly, with respect to decisions regarding parental authority, custody, and visitation involving children in divorce, there are no statutory guidelines which a court must follow, such as the principle found in U.S. law that frequent and continuing contact between a child and his or her parents after they separate is presumed to be in a child’s best interests. Furthermore, since there is also no Japanese constitutional jurisprudence establishing a fundamental interest in having and raising children or otherwise recognizing a constitutionally-protected dimension to the parent-child relationship, decisions about children made by Japanese judges are essentially a form of administrative disposition made in the absence of law. As discussed below, many of the most important decisions a judge may make about children are likely to be rendered in the form of “decrees” following non-public, non-trial proceedings.
Japanese family court judges thus have tremendous discretion when it comes to making decisions about children and may do so by, for example, completely reversing a foreign custody, refusing to award any visitation to a non-custodial parent, awarding visitation for only a few hours once a year, or ordering the custodial parent to send a few photographs of the child every year in lieu of visitation.
Divorce and child custody as part of a consensual process
In Japan, both divorce and what happens to the children afterwards are presumed in the first instance to be determined through consensual arrangements. Japan’s Civil Code provides for divorce by agreement with judicial divorce being available only when the parties cannot agree and a limited range of grounds for divorce are applicable. Furthermore, unlike in the United States where even a consensual divorce involves court filings and possibly a judicially-approved parenting plan or separation agreement if children are involved, a Japanese cooperative divorce is accomplished by simply filing the relevant paperwork with a local government authority which will reflect the change in marital status and allocation of parental responsibility in the parties’ family registry. Since approximately 90% of divorces are accomplished through this process, courts only become involved in the small minority of cases where parties cannot agree on a cooperative divorce or where there is a dispute over children or other matters arise after divorce, including situations where one parent abducts the child or refuses to allow visitation after divorce.
Under Japanese law, parties seeking a judicial divorce or other judicial relief relating to child custody must first attend family-court sponsored mediation. Mediation sessions take place in a family court mediation room in front of a mediation panel composed of a judge, two mediators chosen by the court, and court personnel. Mediation continues at a pace of about one session a month until the parties agree on a result or the judge decides that further sessions are pointless. Although the court takes the lead in administering the mediation, its primary purpose at this stage is to encourage the parties to agree on a result.
Approximately 8% of Japanese divorces – most of those which are brought into court – are achieved through the mediation process. The remaining 2% are either judicial divorces resulting from litigation commenced after mediation has failed, or divorces by settlement after such litigation has commenced but before a divorce judgment. Therefore, one aspect of divorce proceedings that may be confusing is that there are a variety of procedures which vary depending upon the scope of the court’s involvement and responsibility. There are cooperative divorces which involve no court action whatsoever, mediated divorces and divorces by settlement where the court is involved but not responsible for the result, and judicial divorces where the court is involved and responsible for the final result (technically there are two additional types of divorce which are rare and not discussed in this article). Judicial divorces account for only about 1% of all divorces. These differing procedural regimes are also relevant to child custody proceedings.
Because Japanese law provides for court proceedings which in many cases lead to a result for which the court is not responsible, there may be a significant gap between what U.S. citizen parents expect from family courts and what family courts consider their role to be. A party seeking the return of or at least visitation with a child usually wants the court to “do something” as soon as possible. Since most cases are going to start with mediation, however, the family court may view its role primarily as one of encouraging the parties to agree upon a mediated result. Furthermore, since at the mediation stage the court is supposed to be playing only a supporting role, it may be reluctant to provide interim remedies (including ordering the handover of the child) unless they are clearly in the best interests of the child.
Other aspects of Japanese family law may also come into play at the mediation stage. Although divorce is exceptionally easy in Japan so long as both parties agree to it, obtaining a litigated divorce unilaterally over the objections of one party is exceptionally difficult and time consuming. In addition, just as there is little formal law specifying what should happen to children after their parents separate, Japan’s Civil Code is similarly sparse when it comes to providing for property distribution, alimony, and child support. Accordingly, courts have developed a variety of doctrines to protect the financially weaker party from being divorced on unfavorable terms.
A number of amendments to the Civil Code were made in May 2011, though it is unclear what effect they will have on current family court practice. First, the amendments make it easier for public authorities to temporarily suspend parental authority in cases of child abuse and neglect. Under prior law the only remedy was permanent termination of parental authority. Second, under the amended law, parents seeking a cooperative divorce will be required to provide for visitation arrangements and other forms of contact as well as allocate child-rearing expenses, in each case giving priority to the welfare of their children. If they are unable to do so then a family court may make the determinations in their place. While it may seem a minor change, the fact that visitation is now even mentioned in the Civil Code could be said to represent significant progress, since before this amendment it was nothing more than a judicially-created disposition.
However, it is not clear that courts (as opposed to parents) are required by the new law to make decisions in the best interests of children, or that visitation is presumed to be good for children. Combined with the addition to another part of the Civil Code which imposes upon all parents a statutory duty to act in the best interests of their own children, it is not clear whether family courts will regard the new amendments as being anything other than a codification of their existing practice.
Parental authority and custody
Although determinations relating to children are generally made in the context of divorce proceedings, an important procedural difference emerges if mediation fails. To understand this, however, it is necessary to briefly review the concepts of parental authority and custody. Under Japan’s Civil Code, married parents jointly exercise parental authority over minor children. Parental authority includes both the rights and duties of the parent relating to the care and upbringing of their children, but also the management of the children’s property and the taking of legal actions (such as applying for a passport) on their behalf, or even consenting to the child’s adoption. Because parental authority can be relevant to commercial transactions and dealings with government agencies, it can be confirmed through the family registry system. An extract from a child’s family registry may be required for passport applications or other dealings where proof of the parent-child relationship and the parental authority of the person making the application are required.
Under the cooperative divorce regime, parents simply make a notation on the divorce form as to which parent will retain parental authority over which children after divorce. One significant limitation, however, is that Japanese law does not allow for the formal continuation of joint parental authority after divorce even if both parents agree to it.
Procedurally, court involvement makes custody and parental authority more complicated. This is because it is possible for courts to separate the “care and custody” element of parental authority from the property management/legal representative aspect and award them to different people. Thus, a mother could be awarded custody over the child, who she would live with and raise, while the father would be awarded parental authority (minus the custodial element), which though being reflected in his family registry, would be limited to only the authority to manage the child’s property and engage in legal acts in the child’s name. In reality, this type of split custody is rare. The true significance of a court’s ability to deal with these two elements of parental authority separately is more important for procedural purposes rather than the end result.
Judicial determinations of parental authority are generally only made (or changed) by courts at the time of a judicial divorce following a trial. If divorce mediation fails, the onus is on one of the parties to proceed with divorce litigation. If neither does so the parties will simply remain married under the law but live apart. Parental authority will nominally remain with both parents.
However, with respect to matters relating to the custody portion of parental authority ( i.e., who will live with and raise the child, visitation, child support payments, and whether a taken child should be returned), if mediation fails the court will automatically proceed with making a determination, even if neither party proceeds with divorce litigation. These determinations may also be made (or changed) by courts after divorce, in the case of disputes over visitation after a cooperative divorce, or when a child is abducted to Japan after a divorce has taken place in the United States or elsewhere.
Procedurally this is significant because to the extent they are decided by a judge at all they are likely to be decided through the issuance of a judicial decree after mediation fails. Decrees are issued through “non-trial” proceedings, with very loose procedural and evidentiary requirements. Accordingly, what for most parents is the most important part of the proceedings – the part in which the fate of their children is decided – involves a process which seems like a trial (since there is judicial involvement) yet lacks many of the procedural or evidentiary protections that the average person is likely to expect from a trial.
Decrees can be appealed, and if the case advances to divorce litigation, a judge granting a judicial divorce can also make decisions relating to children ancillary to the divorce. In reality, however, it is probably unlikely that judges will second guess a prior decree on custody issues absent blatant mistakes or a change in circumstances.
In cases involving child abduction or interference with visitation, even a complete “win” in court may prove meaningless. Japanese civil law struggles with the enforcement of judgments in many contexts, but it is a problem that is particularly evident in disputes over children. Japanese courts lack marshals with police-like powers that can facilitate enforcing civil judgments. Similarly, Japanese judges do not have broad powers to sanction or imprison recalcitrant parties for contempt of court. Nor is there a mechanism for courts to require the police to become involved in such cases.
The first step in enforcement of a family court decree may be for a family court to issue a “compliance recommendation.” This may involve further inquiries by a family court investigator to confirm the circumstances behind the refusal of the parent having custody to cooperate with visitation. Even if a compliance recommendation is issued, however, there are no sanctions for non-compliance. In fact, compliance recommendations are considered to be a form of casework that is an extension of the courts’ role as a social welfare institution rather than a judicial one. As such, they have no legal force whatsoever.
In terms of actual legal remedies for enforcement, Japanese civil law does not contain any provisions which deal specifically with enforcing orders relating to the compulsory transfer of a child from one parent to another. One remedy is for the court to impose a non-penal monetary fine on a party who refuses to comply with a court order to return an abducted child or cooperate with visitation. However, this type of “indirect enforcement” may be of limited efficacy against parties who do not have a regular income or identifiable assets subject to forfeiture.
In the case of a court order for the return of a child who is young enough that they can be deemed not to have the capacity to form their own intent, it is also possible to seek “direct enforcement” of the order. This involves a district court bailiff attempting to physically accomplish the return of the child. Although the bailiff may request police accompaniment if there is a fear that the abducting parent may become violent, the police will not get involved if there is no crime. The bailiff himself does not have the power to arrest a non-cooperating parent. Thus, although direct enforcement is sometimes successful, it can also sometimes be frustrated by a taking parent through the simple expedient of stubbornly refusing to let go of the child or even just hiding.
Failing any of these remedies, the final arrow in the judicial quiver is habeas corpus. Based on the ancient common law remedy for unlawful detention by government officials, habeas corpus in Japan is used to order an abducting parent to bring the child to court for an inquiry into why they have been “detained.” A parent who refuses to follow a habeas corpus summons and bring an abducted child to court may be subject to imprisonment and/or penal fines. It is thus the only remedy for abduction available to the judiciary where there is the possibility of criminal sanctions for non-compliance.
While it is not uncommon for left-behind parents to immediately file for habeas corpus for children who have been taken to Japan, there do not appear to be any cases where a Japanese court has found the detention of a child to be “significantly unlawful,” even if it involves the violation of a foreign court order or has resulted in criminal proceedings in that country. There have been a number of cases where Japanese courts have both recognized the validity of a foreign court order awarding custody to the foreign parent while refusing to grant habeas corpus relief.
Domestic violence, legislative amendments, and the Hague Convention
The Japanese government is often criticized for appearing to drag its feet on adopting the Hague Convention. As the above discussion shows, however, meaningful implementation of the convention would involve significant amendments to Japanese domestic law. That this process may require a wide-ranging debate is understandable in a democratic society such as Japan.
In the course of the debate over the Hague Convention, one concern that has been expressed repeatedly is how to deal with situations where a Japanese mother residing abroad unilaterally returns to Japan with her children out of fear of domestic violence in the United States or other countries. While domestic violence is a legitimate policy concern, it is also an issue that can be assumed dealt with adequately through the legal system of the United States or other Hague Convention signatories. While it would be easy to view the concerns about domestic violence as primarily reflecting a lack of faith in the judicial systems of potential treaty partners, domestic violence is also controversial in strictly domestic custody cases. Japanese law defines “domestic violence” in exceptionally broad terms and it is often interpreted even more broadly so that not only physical violence, but verbal abuse, psychological “violence,” and even “economic violence” is sometimes included.
It has been suggested by some in Japan that the Hague Convention be signed, but with implementing legislation providing for exceptions that would prevent the return of children in cases involving domestic violence or abuse. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has gone further in proposing that any legislation implementing the Hague Convention, if adopted, not only prevent return in such cases, but also if the taking parent would be subject to criminal prosecution if they returned with the child. Given the expansive definition accorded to domestic violence and abuse, it seems possible that virtually any instance of a child being taken to Japan could be characterized so as to fall into this exception. But this involves speculating on legislation that does not yet exist.
As noted in the introduction to this article, recent events in Northeastern Japan will have dramatically shifted the focus of policymakers in Japan. What can be expected in the immediate future in terms of the Hague Convention and further changes to Japanese family law remains to be seen. But natural disasters notwithstanding, Japanese people will continue to get married, have children and, in some cases, get divorced. So long as no changes are made, Japan will also continue to be regarded as a haven for abduction. This would be a sad thing since it is ultimately children – the ultimate resource in Japan, the United States, and everywhere else – who will continue to suffer.
Colin P.A. Jones is a Professor at Doshisha University Law School, a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and has been admitted to the bar in New York, Guam and the Republic of Palau. He received his A.B. from the University of California at Berkeley, an LL.M. from Tohoku University, as well as a J.D. and LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Summary of what has happened from October to present.
Oct 4th Asahi Shimbun publishes story about my bike tour to raise awareness about child rights.
October 16th I finished my 1500km bike ride from Kumamoto to Tokyo.
October 16th demo in Shibuya for joint custody and the Hague.
October 17th met with Diet member who advocates for joint custody.
October 18th Japan Times publishes story about my bike tour
October 31st NHK publishes an internet piece regarding joint custody.
Nov 12th Obama asks Noda to solve the abduction issue and join the Hague
Nov 13th Joint Demarche. 6 nations press Japan to sign the Hague.
Dec 12th – 16th I visited 9 prefectural offices to advocate for joint custody
Dec 15th one-fifth of kids deprived of contact with one parent – Japan Times
Dec 18th street demo in Tokyo for joint custody
Dec 19th – 22nd I visited 8 prefectural offices to advocate for joint custody
Dec 21st Secretary Clinton urges Japan to take action on child abduction
Dec 22nd LBP Meetup Group has candle light vigil and deliver policy statement to Ministry of Justice
Dec 23rd Karina Garcia is returned from Japan to America.
Dec 24th LBP meetup group in the paper
Jan 6th Kurt Campbell urges Japan to sign the Hague and solve existing abduction cases
Jan 12th LBP group meets with Justice Minister Eda
From September to December I visited 41 prefectural offices. In general all most all prefectures did their best to accommodate my needs. Since my Japanese ability is not very good, I would first go to the International Affairs Division and ask for translation help. Then someone from International Affairs would accompany me to the Child Welfare Department or in some cases Child Welfare would come to the International Affairs Division. Ibaraki-ken was the most friendly prefectural office I visited. The people in the International Affairs Department and the Child Welfare Department were both great. Mie-ken was the most unfriendly prefectural office. They turned me away and told me to make an appointment if I decided to come back. They were the only prefecture that turned me away. Other unfriendly prefectures included Saitama, Oita, and Fukuoka. Some of the better prefectures were Iwate, Yamanashi, and Ibaraki, with the remaining prefectures falling in the middle. Sometimes I met with as many as 4 members from Child Welfare. Many times the people I met with would take notes as I spoke. All most every prefecture said they would share the information I gave them with others in their department. They all said they would have a meeting to discuss what they could do for me (for children who can’t meet one of their parents). But they said it was difficult for them to do anything significant. Of course I said they were limited in what they could do but I also suggested some simple things they could do, such as ask the governor to send a request to the Diet in Tokyo requesting Japan adopt “Joint Custody”. Japan is the only G-7 country that does not have some form of joint custody. I met some good people along the way. Left behind parents supported me in Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Gifu, Shiga, Aichi, Yokohama, Tokyo, and Nagano. I am grateful of their help and generosity. I was definitely able to raise awareness at the prefectural level but the general public still is largely unaware of this problem. More work needs to be done. I told all of the prefectural offices that the family court was the problem. The ruling the family courts make go against the message contained in the DVD Supreme Court video and the UNCRC. The family courts do nothing to ensure children have contact with both parents. The government encourages fathers to take a more active role in child rearing and has established policies for workers to take more time off when their kids are born. But the family courts/government seem to ignore this fact when couples divorce. After divorce one parent somehow becomes unimportant. Ten’s of thousands of loving parents, maybe more, are being denied access to one parent. You can make a difference by getting involved. Oyakonet and K-net are 2 of the biggest LBP groups in Japan. There are many other smaller groups too, most of whom support each other and work toward the same goal “spending more time with their children”. Contact Children First if you are interested in helping out.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 23, 2011
Just in time for Christmas, a Fox Point man was reunited Friday with his young daughter whose mother fled with her to Japan nearly four years ago at the start of the couple’s divorce.
The girl’s return also freed her mother from jail in Milwaukee, where she had been held on contempt and interfering with custody charges since her April arrest on a Wisconsin warrant in Hawaii, where she had gone to renew her U.S. permanent resident status.
The exchange and release ended an expensive international legal, diplomatic and cultural struggle, and is believed to be the first time one of more than 300 children kidnapped to Japan has been returned to the U.S. via legal intervention.
“I didn’t think this day would ever come,” said James Sakar, an attorney for Moises Garcia.
Garcia, 39, met his daughter at O’Hare International Airport, where she arrived with her grandmother and Garcia’s Japanese lawyer. Along with Sakar, there were several law enforcement officials, staff of the Japanese Consulate in Chicago, a psychologist, representatives of the U.S. State Department and advocates for other American parents whose children are being held in Japan, where officials have refused to sign a world convention about international child abduction.
“They blinked, I guess,” said Patrick Braden, the founder of Global Future, an advocacy group for parents, and whose own child remains in Japan.
Garcia, 9-year-old Karina and Garcia’s sister drove back to Fox Point on Friday morning.
Braden said Garcia told him Friday afternoon that he was shocked how quickly Karina seemed to fit back into life in Wisconsin, recognizing her old room, toys and neighborhood friends.
“They’re out shopping now,” Braden said.
Garcia, Braden and others plan a news conference about the case Saturday.
Garcia’s ex-wife, Emiko Inoue, 43, is Japanese with legal U.S. residency while married to Garcia, a physician. She took her daughter to Japan in February 2008, shortly after Garcia had filed for divorce, and ignored court orders to return. Last month, Inoue pleaded no contest to interfering with child custody under an agreement that she would ultimately be convicted of a misdemeanor if her daughter was returned to Garcia, who has legal custody.
Inoue’s attorney, Bridget Boyle, filed paperwork Friday confirming the girl had arrived in the United States and then met Inoue as she was released from jail – where Japanese TV news crews were waiting.
“She’s very happy,” Boyle said, but did not want to speak with a local reporter.
Boyle said Inoue would spend the night at a hotel with her mother, then stay in the area with a friend. She said it “could be a period of time” before Inoue gets to have direct contact with her daughter.
“But the ultimate goal of everyone is to get this child to have two parents,” Boyle said.
Inoue cannot leave the country without a judge’s permission. Sakar said Inoue will have every opportunity to seek visitation arrangements or legal custody changes in family court.
“My guy will never do what she did to him,” Sakar said.
Braden said he was hopeful the case will make it easier for other parents whose children were taken to Japan illegally by their other parent to bring those kids back to the U.S., but doesn’t expect it to open the floodgates.
Sakar said Garcia’s entire effort to bring his daughter home cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a price many other left-behind parents can’t afford.
“I still expect Japan will do everything it can to make sure this never happens again,” Braden said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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 )
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 )
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 )
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 )
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