Archive for January, 2011
Two British father’s are fighting to see their kids. Alex and his kids live in Japan but his ex has prevented him from seeing them. Shane lives in Britain and his kids went to Japan with their mother to visit a sick relative. They never came back and Shane has no contact with his kids. Click on the links below to watch the BBC videos.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I wrote a message to PM Kan today.
“Yes signing the Hague is important but more important is solving the existing cases of parental abduction and denial of access among parents living in Japan and abroad. Millions of children are affected by divorce and about 80% of those divorced children loose all contact with one parent. It is important that both parents have access to their child. The Supreme Court of Japan produced a DVD called, “What Couples with Children Must Think About When They Live Apart”. This DVD states that it is best for both kids to have access to both parents. Kids will grow up and do better in school and life if the have love and attention from both parents. Mr. Kan I hope you can personally work on this issue and make the necessary changes so that all children can have long term and meaningful access to both of their parents whether they are Japanese or foreign.”
Please visit his blog (click on the link below) and write a message today!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
According to the Japan Times, pediatricians and other members of a nonprofit group are preparing to open a retreat facility in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture, next year for children with serious illnesses or disabilities.
Relatives taking care of children suffering from serious diseases at home can’t take a break because there are no such facilities in Japan where they can temporarily leave their children, she said.
Minoru Mizusawa, 44, said: “Families with sick children tend to stay home a lot. I hope there will be more facilities like this.”
Unlike conventional hospices that accept terminal-stage patients, it will accommodate children with illnesses of varying degrees.
Once the facility opens the organizers are planning to provide stays of around one week during which nurses will be always on hand to help.
To read the full story click on the link: retreat facility for disabledRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Wednesday 26th January, 2011
According to the Japan Today, the Japanese government set up a task force Tuesday to examine whether to join an international convention on child custody disputes.
The move came as the French Senate adopted a resolution by an overwhelming majority urging Japan to promptly join the 1980 Hague Convention to help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan following failed marriages with Japanese nationals.
The resolution followed a similar one adopted last September by the U.S. House of Representatives. Japan is being urged to join the convention to help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan after failed marriages with Japanese nationals.
The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence when they are wrongfully removed or retained in the case of an international divorce. It also protects parental access rights.
The resolution calls on Japan to amend its legislation, saying Japanese laws do not grant joint custody to divorced parents and often restrict the visitation rights of French parents.
In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tuesday that the government has been holding discussions on the matter with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and its coalition partner, the People’s New Party, to formulate the country’s policy.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said after the first meeting of the newly launched government task force, comprising senior vice ministers and other top officials concerned, that Tokyo will consider ‘‘from scratch’’ whether to join the Hague Convention.
‘‘At the moment we have no plans to set a date, but we don’t intend to let discussion drag on,’’ Fukuyama said when asked how long the government will need to reach a decision on the matter.
As Japan has yet to join the convention, non-Japanese parents cannot meet their children if Japanese parents take their children to Japan from the country in which the family had been living.
Of the Group of Seven major economies, only Japan has yet to ratify the convention, which currently has 83 parties.
Hundreds of American parents have leveled accusations of kidnapping against their former Japanese spouses.
But some critics in Japan have raised concerns over joining the Hague Convention, saying it could endanger Japanese parents and their children who have fled from abuse by non-Japanese parents.
Last October, the ambassadors of 11 countries and the European Union in Japan met with then Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida and urged the Japanese government to join the convention.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
According to the Japan Times, a high-level government panel kicked off discussions Tuesday on whether to sign an international treaty against international child abductions by parents but has set no time frame for reaching a conclusion, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.
Participants from various ministries attended, including Parliamentary Vice Minister Ikuo Yamahana from the Foreign Ministry, Senior Vice Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa and Yoko Komiyama, the senior vice health minister.
Fukuyama stressed that setting up the council doesn’t necessarily mean Japan will sign the treaty, which would make it a criminal offense if a Japanese spouse spirits offspring to Japan after a failed international marriage.
“We intend to discuss the issue and will decide the government’s course of action,” he said. “And I would like to strongly state that this meeting doesn’t mean Japan will automatically (join) the treaty.”
He added that the council will solicit opinions from various people and organizations, including mothers who have brought their children to Japan.
The government has been under international pressure to join the Hague Convention, which aims to promptly return children illegally taken out of the country of their “habitual residence” by a parent. However, there are strong voices within Japan against signing the treaty, with some saying that parents bring their offspring back to Japan to keep them away from abusive ex-partners.
Fukuyama said he was aware of domestic concerns over the issue as well as the international community’s call to sign the convention, but he added the council’s focus will be on the children.
Colin Jones is a law professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto. He has studied Japanese Family Law, Japanese Courts, Child Custody, Divorce, and Parental Abduction for the last 6 years. He did an interview in the summer of 2009 about Japanese Family Courts and why they do what they do. The interview can be found on youtube. Colin is very knowledgeable and he compares Japanese Family Law and California Family Law at times. If you want to learn more about the Family Court System in Japan please watch the 50 minute interview. (It is a five part series each being 10 minutes).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Every child is suppose to have certain rights that are guaranteed. If you are divorced or separated from your child I think you can understand. Sometimes those rights are not guaranteed.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
ERNIE ALLEN, President & Chief Executive Officer for THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN testifies in Washington, D.C. before the TOM LANTOS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION about “INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION AND PARENTAL ACCESS”
December 2, 2009
According to the latest research from the Department of Justice, there are more than 200,000 family abductions per year. In these situations, a non-custodial relative abducts a child from his or her custodial parent. This is a crime under both state and federal law. Family-abducted children suffer extreme emotional abuse, ranging from lack of identity to grief over the loss of a parent. In many instances the abductor tells the child that the left-behind-parent is dead or no longer wants the child. Abductors frequently move the child from city to city, or take the child to another country, making it difficult for law enforcement and the searching parent to locate and recover the child.
To help illustrate the scope of the problem of international child abduction, I’d like to share some additional statistics with you. NCMEC is currently working cases involving 1,214 children who were abducted by a non-custodial parent from the United States to a foreign country. The majority of these children were taken to the following countries: Mexico (533 children); Japan (54 children); India (32 children); Egypt (30 children); the United Kingdom (24 children); and Canada (23 children).
To read Mr. Allen’s full testimony please click on the link below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The government of the United States is deeply concerned about the issues of international parental child abduction and child custody/visitation with respect to its close friend and ally, Japan. Due to its sole-parent child custody system, its reluctance to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and the fact that it has never returned a single child abducted from abroad to his or her rightful home, Japan has earned an international reputation as a safe haven for kidnappers. Over the past several years, U.S. lawmakers have begun making concerted efforts to end the tragic situations affecting a great many American families due to Japan’s antiquated family law system and its inexplicable disregard for international norms.
The U.S. State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues states there are 100 active cases involving 140 American children who have been abducted from the U.S.A. and who are now being held in Japan in violation of American law. Many of the Japanese nationals guilty of these abductions have court orders against them and are subject to arrest by the F.B.I. and prosecution by federal courts for kidnapping should they again set foot on U.S. soil. In the United States and most advanced nations child abduction is an extremely serious crime. Japan lags far behind other developed countries by failing to recognize this common sense, international consensus and by not legislating child abduction as a punishable criminal offense.
In addition, it is estimated that at least 3,200 American children residing in Japan are being denied access to one of their parents post-divorce. This is due to the Japanese child custody system that awards shin ken (parental rights) to only one parent upon divorce and also severely limits child access to the other parent thereafter. In the case of international marriages, foreign parents are greatly disadvantaged in Japanese courts, and Japanese nationals almost invariably receive sole parental rights. Once shin ken is granted to one parent, the other has no further legal rights with regard to his or her child’s upbringing, and the shin ken holder may deny that other parent access to the child at his or her whim. Since no specific provision for visitation exists under Japanese statute, and since Japanese courts in any event lack any real enforcement powers, the left-behind parent – i.e., the parent without parental rights – is at the mercy of his or her former Japanese spouse. Child visitation is frequently denied outright or severely curtailed, and in any event is always subject to the caprice of the shin ken holder.
These two issues – international parental child abduction and child custody/visitation – are beginning to strain the friendly relations the United States and Japan have enjoyed since the end of World War II. In response to the seriousness of this situation, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently begun taking steps to address what the United States considers to be gross violations of the human rights of American children and their parents by the Japanese nation.
H.Res. 1326 (House Resolution 1326
H.Res. 1326 is a non-binding resolution approved on September 29, 2010, by a vote of 416 to 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The resolution 1) “condemns the abduction and retention” of American children by Japanese nationals and demands their repatriation, 2) calls upon Japan to create enforceable laws that guarantee American parents the right to visitation with their children, and 3) urges Japan to accede to the Hague Convention so that established legal mechanisms can be relied upon to resolve custody disputes arising from the dissolution of international marriages. H.Res. 1326 reflects the overwhelming feeling among the American public and its lawmakers that Japan should immediately address these very serious issues for several reasons.
First, removing American citizens from their domiciles in the United States without the consent of the American parents is, as the resolution states, “a violation of their human rights and international law.” As a friend and ally of the United States, Japan should act immediately to end this tragic injustice and restore the family relationships its policies have damaged or destroyed, and thenceforth ensure that the rule of law applies in a reciprocal fashion between the two countries.
Additionally, Japan is viewed as an outlier among the community of advanced nations for not providing for joint custody or enforceable child visitation following divorce. The end result of these policies is frequently the American parent’s complete loss of access to his or her child. Essential family bonds are thus traumatically severed, and the children affected by this tragedy often have to contend with the effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a psychological condition which can result in depression; loss of community; loss of stability, security, and trust; excessive fearfulness, even of ordinary occurrences; loneliness; anger; helplessness; disruption in identity formation; and fear of abandonment.
Finally, Japan is currently the only G-7 country that has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, adopted thirty years ago in 1980. This multilateral treaty, in which 82 countries participate, provides a legal means to effect the expeditious repatriation of children abducted from their domiciles in their home countries, termed in the treaty the child’s “place of habitual residence.” Japan’s resistance to becoming a signatory to the convention and its oft-repeated claims that it is “studying” or “considering” the issue are adversely affecting the country’s diplomatic and economic relations with its strategic allies and important trade partners. Over the past year, through a series of démarches, or diplomatic initiatives, America has joined with 11 other nations plus the European Union to pressure Japan to accede to the treaty and also to resolve outstanding child custody and visitation issues. These démarches are evidence of the increasing frustration the global community now feels over Japan’s lack of progress with respect to this important human rights issue.
H.R. 3240 – The International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009
H.R. 3240, entitled The International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009, is a bipartisan bill pending before the U.S. House of Representatives that specifically addresses the joint problems of international parental child abduction and loss of child custody/visitation under the Japanese legal system. If approved by the House, H.R. 3240 would, as a federal statute, have the force of law, and would require specific action on the part of the U.S. government to resolve these issues. Among other things, H.R. 3240 would establish an Office of International Child Abductions in the U.S. Department of State and provide for punitive measures for countries deemed to have exhibited a “pattern of non-cooperation” with respect to the protection of children’s rights.
As explained in one summary of the proposed bill, H.R. 3240 would create an Ambassador at Large for International Child Abductions whose primary responsibilities would be to:
1) promote measures to prevent the international abduction of children from the United States;
(2) advocate on behalf of abducted children whose habitual residence is the United States;
(3) assist left-behind parents in the resolution of abduction or refusal of access cases; and
(4) advance mechanisms to prevent and resolve cases of international child abduction.
In addition, the act would direct the President of the United States to:
(1) annually review the status of unresolved cases in each foreign country to determine whether the government has engaged in a pattern of non-cooperation, and if so, designate such country as a Country With a Pattern of Non-cooperation;
(2) notify the appropriate congressional committees of such designation; and
(3) take specified presidential or commensurate actions to bring about a cessation of non-cooperation.
Thus, passage of H.R. 3240 in the House will radically alter the friendly and cooperative relationship America and Japan have traditionally enjoyed, absent a sincere effort on Japan’s part to resolve the fundamental human rights issues the bill addresses. It is hoped that Japan will voluntarily do the right thing and, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell cautions, not “wait until the situation has become so tense and so difficult that it appears that Japan is only responding to pressure from the United States.”
 see “Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse” by Nancy Faulkner, Ph.D. presented to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights in Special Session, June 9, 1999, at http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/unreport.htmRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A man and his girlfriend have been arrested here for allegedly inflicting serious injuries on the woman’s little daughter, including bite wounds on the girl’s arm, police said.
Hikaru Izumisawa, 27, a company employee, and his girlfriend Mana Ezomori, 26, stand accused of punching Ezomori’s 3-year-old daughter in the face and body and biting the girl’s left arm at their home in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Yamato sometime between Oct. 16 and 17 last year, causing the toddler injuries that took three months to heal. The girl, who reportedly had a piece of flesh torn off her left arm, is believed to have been abused on a regular basis.
Police arrested Izumisawa and Ezomori on suspicion of assault. The couple has explained that their abusive behavior was as part of their “discipline” measures against the girl, according to investigators.
Izumisawa began living with Ezomori, her 8-year-old daughter and the abused toddler around January last year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Japan set up a cabinet-level council Friday to examine whether to join an international convention that sets procedures for resolving child custody cases in failed international marriages. This article gives the appearance that Japan is taking the issue seriously. A more likely scenario is that Japan is using this council to delay signing the Hague. Most people know Japan is the master at stalling. They claim to study the issue but never make any changes. Even if they to sign the Hague they may not ratify it. Cases are not retroactive so parents will continue to suffer until the Hague is ratified. Only 30% of Hague cases are resolved. Signing the Hague is meaningless to those parents that have no access to their kids in Japan now. The Hague may help a few parents in 20 years but it is not the answer for most left behind parents. LBP’s need access to their kids now. And all of the governments worldwide should be pressuring Japan to resolve existing cases. This issue is poorly covered in the media. Not many people are aware of the depth of this problem. It affects millions of Japanese parents. Changing the law in Japan is a much better answer to this problem than signing the Hague.
To read the full article in Japan Today, click on the link below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
CNN and several other new agencies covered the Left Behind Parents demo in Tokyo on January 16th, 2011. The following is part of an article written by CNN.
“Stop parental child abduction,” the parents cried. “Sign the Hague Convention.”
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction is a multilateral treaty that dates to 1983. It often comes into play when parents divorce, and one parent takes the child back to his or her home country, keeping the child away from the other parent who may have partial or full custody. The treaty effectively forces signatory nations to recognize that custody.
Dozens of countries have signed onto it — the official website lists 84 “contracting states” to the convention — but Japan is not among them.
Calls for Japan to sign the convention have increased as heartbreaking stories have come to light.
But some critics say Japan joining the convention would not solve cases of international parental abductions. They argue Japan’s domestic legal system needs to be improved and prepared for the increasing numbers of marriages between Japanese people and foreign nationals. To read the full article or watch the video click on the link(s) below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A group of left behind parents met in Tokyo on a cold winter day to protest and speak about child abduction and the need for Japan to change it’s outdated Family Law. Parents want more access to their children. Parents want joint custody like all of the other G-7 countries have. Children have the right to see and love both parents. Under Japanese law only one parent has custody after divorce and the other parent often loses custody and contact with the child. Left Behind Parents gave speeches and marched down the street in Shibuya. This was an excellent turnout for such a cold day. About 80 parents and concerned citizens showed up to raise awareness about child abduction. The children are the foundation of the future. Click on the link to view a 3 minute video of the demo.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
On Saturday July 31st, (“中部・共同親権法制化運動の会”)”Chubu Joint Custody Association for the legislation of joint nurture” sponsored a demo in Nagoya followed by a symposium related to Parental Abduction, Joint Custody, and Parental Alienation. Five fathers spoke at the symposium after the demo. Goto-sensei was the keynote speaker at the symposium. NHK and the Chunichi shimbun were at the symposium and plan to do stories on the issue.
Goto-sensei had several interesting points. She said, there are not many lawyers in Japan that are experienced and willing to fight the unjust Japanese Court system. Goto-sensei talked about a case that she worked on for 3 years. She represented the father and after a 3 year battle custody was awarded to him but transferring physical custody to the father was a problem. The court tried to assist with this two different times but each time it failed. After the second failure the court suggested that Goto and the father give up. Hence, as most of us know, the court has no real power.
Goto said things use to be different 30 years ago. Men often got custody but sometime in the 1990′s a feminist movement took place and women suddenly started gaining power especially in custody cases.
Goto also said, if you are a good person and follow the Japanese way your chances of being abused by the system are great. Goto suggested you fight in court that way judges and courts will know there is a problem. If you don’t try and fight you will never win. “Fight the system” was her biggest message of the day. But, in the same breath Goto-sensei said there are only 5 aggressive lawyers in Japan who are willing to fight the system. She said the other lawyers are weak or inexperienced and don’t want to cause trouble. So if you read between the lines, it is almost impossible to hire an aggressive lawyer who will fight for the best interests of the child.
If you have time watch the short video below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Despite the harm Nancy Fiedler inflicted on her daughter and her ex-husband and his family, I predict her punishment will not fit the crime. If this were a “stranger” abduction, there is no doubt of severe retribution, however, the irony is that the true victim, Eva, will likely support and defend her mother.
According to Georgialee Lang (lawyer), there is no reason to believe that Nancy Fiedler will discontinue her accusations of abuse against Greg Fiedler after living a large part of her life based on this theme. In Ms. Lang’s experience, women like Nancy Fiedler rarely have insight into their destructive behavior. She likely casts herself in the role of heroine, after all, she saved her daughter.
To read the full article click on the link. Lawdiva blogRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Asahi Broadcasting Corporation in Osaka did a story about international divorce and the state of Family Law in Japan. They focused on 2 cases, Craig Morrey and Yuka Yamanaka. Craig’s ex moved to Yamaguchi-ken with their daughter and left Craig to care for his severely handicapped son all by himself. Craig rarely gets to meet his daughter. Craig, as most divorced parents, is extremely unhappy with the family court system. He is working with many people in Japan and America to change the Family Law System in Japan.
Yuka’s children live in America and her ex refuses to let the kids visit Japan because Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention. Her ex’s knows there is no legal or diplomatic way to return the children from Japan to America, unless Japan signs the Hague. Yuka is hoping the government of Japan will sign the Hague. She would also like to see changes in the Family Law System so both parents can have access to their children.
Click on the link to watch the 14 minute video: ABC video on divorce and Japanese Family Law_Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Yomiuri Shimbun
We live in a time when divorce has become commonplace. In Japan, a couple gets divorced every two minutes. Consequently, the number of divorced parents filing requests with the courts for visitation rights is increasing.
There is also a growing number of conflicts resulting from breakups of couples from different countries. Due to differences in interpretation regarding child custody, parents have been accused of abducting their own children and taking them to another country.
As families and people’s values diversify, certain problems have become difficult to resolve under the existing system.
Starting today, we will look at some of the problems divorced parents face as they struggle to win the right to see their children.
After separating from her husband five years ago, a 51-year-old woman in Tokyo began a long struggle to see her 15-year-old son.
The woman, a temporary worker, has only been able to see her son twice in the five years that have passed. The meetings, held in a court and in the presence of a court personnel, totaled just 95 minutes.
On both occasions when the woman saw her son, she was unable to stop tears welling up.
“My son, who is taking piano lessons, put his hand on mine to compare the size,” she said. “As I saw him staring at me while talking, I felt we were deeply bound inside.”
Desperately wishing to see her son more often, in July 2007 she applied to the family court for mediation on the issue of visitation rights.
However, the woman’s former husband initially resisted all requests to allow her to visit her son, citing the boy’s need to focus on his schooling, including preparing to move up to the next grade.
As part of the mediation process, in which a voluntary settlement is sought with the help of commissioners, the court initially set up two short meetings between the woman and her son as a way of determining the format future meetings should take.
The two met for 50 minutes in March 2008 and 45 minutes in April 2009.
“My son remembered the meeting we had a year earlier,” the woman said.
While the court advised that the woman be allowed to visit her son every two months, the couple failed to reach an agreement. As a result, the mediation process moved to the next stage, which will see a final decision issued by a judge.
“I’m so worried that I might never be allowed to see my son again,” she said.
Children caught up in disputes
The number of divorces nationwide reached 250,000 in 2008, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey. Of those divorced couples, 140,000 had children aged under 20, which numbered more than 240,000.
The rising number of divorced couples is accompanied by an increasing number of conflicts involving children.
According to an annual survey compiled by the Supreme Court, family courts across the country mediated in 6,261 cases concerning disputes over meetings between divorced parents and their children and judges were forced to deliver a final decision in 1,020 of those cases. Both figures were triple the numbers a decade ago.
Even through such court-mediated procedures, only half of the parents involved in the cases won permission to see their children.
In addition, regardless of an agreement or court order reached on visitation, if the parent who lives with the child strongly resists allowing meetings, it remains difficult for the other parent to see the child.
Maintaining contact important
Several years ago, a 40-year-old man from Kanagawa Prefecture seeking the right to see his then 1-year-old son applied for court mediation.
He had helped his wife take care of the baby, feeding him milk and changing his diapers at night. On his days off, he took the boy to a park to play. “I had no inkling I’d be prevented from meeting my son after the divorce,” he said. “But I was completely wrong.”
He said that even after the official mediation procedure started, his former wife maintained she would never allow him to see their son. She even pushed back the scheduled date for the mediation. Time passed and no decisions were made.
Desperate to see his son, the man even visited the neighborhood where the boy lived with his mother.
The former couple failed to reach a compromise through the court-led mediation process and began proceedings that would lead to a decision by a judge. Two years later, the court concluded that the man should be allowed to see his son once a month, for half a day. Nevertheless, the former wife broke the appointment set for the first meeting, leaving the man unable to see the boy.
After repeated negotiations with the woman through lawyers, he finally managed to ensure he could regularly see his son. “I believe it’s important for children’s growth to maintain a relationship with both parents,” the father said. “I think adults shouldn’t deprive their children of this right due to selfishness.”
Waseda University Prof. Masayuki Tanamura argues the existing system no longer meets society’s changing needs. “It was previously believed that divorced parents had to accept they couldn’t see children they’d been separated from,” Tanamura said. “In recent years, however, men have become more involved in child rearing and the number of children born to couples has declined. Because of this, many divorced parents have an increased desire to maintain their relationship with their children even after a divorce.”
What needs to be done to ensure that parents can see their children after a divorce? There is a growing need for this nation to find an answer to this question.
Sole custody causing headaches
A key factor behind disputes involving divorced couples over their children’s custody is a Civil Code stipulation that parental prerogatives are granted to either the mother or father–not both.
The parent who obtains custody assumes rights and duties for his or her child, such as the duty to educate the child and the right to control any assets they might have. However, the parent without parental authority can claim almost no rights concerning their children.
In fact, mothers win in 90 percent of court decisions concerning the custody of a child–known as mediation and determination proceedings.
There is no provision in the Civil Code referring to the visitation rights of a parent living separately from his or her child, so whether the absent parent can meet the child depends on the wishes of the former partner who has been granted custody.
If the parent who has custody refuses to let his or her child meet with the former spouse in a court mediation, it is difficult to arrange visits.
Even if the parent living separately from his or her child or children is allowed to visit, the chances are limited–for example, to once a month. Moreover, if the parents who have custody ignore the court’s decision to grant their spouses visiting rights, there is almost no legal recourse to implement such visits.
Waseda University Prof. Masayuki Tanamura said: “The current system strongly reflects the Japanese family system established in the Meiji era [1868-1912]. Since that time, parental authority has been regarded as the right of the parents to control their children, so couples fight over it.”
Meanwhile, as the number of divorces increased from the 1970s to the ’90s in Europe and the United States, such countries began allowing joint custody, in which former couples cooperate in bringing up their children even after breaking up.
Lawyer Takao Tanase, who also serves as a professor at Chuo University, said: “[In such countries,] the rights of parents who live separately from their children after divorce to visit and communicate with their children are recognized, and such visits occur regularly. For example, there are cases in which such parents meet with their children once a fortnight and spend the weekend together.”
The number of international marriages is increasing yearly–reaching a record high of 18,774 cases in 2008–and the difference in the custody system between Japan and foreign countries causes serious problems when a Japanese splits from his or her foreign spouse.
Cases in which Japanese living in foreign countries take their children back to Japan after divorcing a foreign spouse have become an international problem. The Foreign Ministry confirmed 73 such incidents in the United States, 36 in Canada, 35 in France and 33 in Britain.
There is an international law to deal with such disputes. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction stipulates that if a former husband or wife takes his or her child or children to another country without the consent of the former spouse, the spouse can apply to bring the child back to the country where they were living. Member countries assume an obligation to cooperate in bringing the child back to the home country.
Many European countries and the United States have joined the convention, but Japan has yet to ratify it. International pressure on Japan to adopt the convention is growing.
“We need to separate the problems of parent-child relationships from the problems between couples. We need to establish laws enabling children to meet with the parent who is living separately after divorce, with the exception of cases in which the child is exposed to potential physical danger by meeting the parent,” Tanase said.
“In Japan, divorce is becoming increasingly common, and it’s important to accept the idea that divorced couples will share child-rearing duties even after divorce,” he added.
(Feb. 3, 2010)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Japan and India are among America’s key allies. Yet to scores of embittered parents across the U.S., they are outlaw states when it comes to the wrenching phenomenon of “international child abduction.
The frustrations of these “left-behind” parents run deep. They seethe over Japan’s and India’s noncompliance with U.S. court orders regarding children taken by the other parent to the far side of the world, and many also fault top U.S. leaders for reluctance to ratchet up the pressure for change.
More than 80 nations have signed an accord aimed at curtailing such incidents, but only a handful of Asian countries are among them. Of the continent’s nonsignatories, Japan and India pose the biggest problem for the U.S. — accounting for more than 300 cases, involving more than 400 children, opened by the State Department since 1994. The State Department says it cares deeply about international parental child abductions, and a surge is expected.
The department’s special adviser on children’s issues, Susan Jacobs, and its top official for Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, have raised the topic on multiple occasions.
Campbell used the word “kidnapping” in protesting the many cases in Japan where mothers living overseas with foreign husbands returned home with their children and kept the fathers from having contact with them.
“This is a hard job — we don’t get as many successes as we want,” said Stefanie Eye, chief of the State Department’s Eastern Hemisphere abductions division. “We want every child in the right place.”
Yet many of the parents feel current U.S. efforts are inadequate, as does their most vocal champion in Congress, Republican Rep. Chris Smith.
After Republicans take control of the House in January, Smith hopes to become chairman of a subcommittee with oversight of human rights issues and use that post to push a bill that would toughen the U.S. approach to child abductions.
The bill would establish the Office on International Child Abductions within the State Department, and create a mechanism for imposing sanctions on uncooperative countries.
“We need the full weight of the federal government behind each and every one of these left-behind parents,” Smith said. “My bill doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees their cases will not be ignored. . . . We’re not going to quit until it’s law.”
Smith wrote to President Barack Obama on Nov. 10 — prior to Obama’s recent Asia trip — urging him to step up pressure on Japan to resolve the pending cases. Simply encouraging Japan to join the Hague Convention isn’t sufficient, Smith said, because it wouldn’t be retroactive and thus wouldn’t help parents like Patrick Braden and Scott Sawyer.
Another frustrated father is Michael Elias, 26, a former marine who served in Iraq and now works as a sheriff’s deputy in New Jersey. According to his testimony to Congress, Elias obtained a court order in October 2008 awarding him joint custody of his two children amid the breakup of his marriage to a woman he had met in Japan. He said the woman flew to Tokyo with the children two months later, in defiance of the order, and he has been unable to see them or speak to them by phone even though he has now been awarded full custody by a U.S. court. Elias — whose son is 3 and daughter almost 5 — has attended several informational meetings convened by the State Department for left-behind parents. “Every meeting I’ve ever been to, everybody tells me they’re working better, but I don’t see any progress at all,” he said.
Smith, in September, helped push a resolution through the House of Representatives urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention and return abducted American children. “Americans are fed up with our friend and ally Japan,” Smith said at the time.
In response, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said Japan is making “sincere efforts to deal with this issue from the standpoint that the welfare of the child should be of the utmost importance.”
Many times previously, Japan has said it would consider signing the Hague Convention, but it also has expressed concern that doing so might leave some Japanese women and their children vulnerable to abusive foreign husbands.
Stefanie Eye said that in Japan, unlike many Western countries, it’s accepted practice that only one parent — usually the mother — has custody of a child after a divorce. That leaves many fathers, including foreigners, unable to see their children until they are grown up because of lack of visitation rights. “Part of what we’re doing is offering the Hague country perspective of why it’s important for children to have access to both parents,” Eye said.
The State Department says it knows of no cases where a child taken from the U.S. to Japan by one parent has been ordered by a Japanese court to return to the U.S.
Despite the slow movement in Asia, Eye said she found cause for encouragement: The Foreign Ministry recently opened an office to deal with abduction issues and has been asking “good questions” about the impact if Tokyo signed the Hague Convention.
Craig Morrey told me a great story about a 5th Grader making a difference. The following is what Craig said:
When raising my severely disabled son alone while fighting in a dysfunctional court system to defend my daughter’s rights to be with her father and brother seems overwhelming, I remind myself of Einstein’s quote- “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”.
Focusing on the opportunity my family was given, I chose to publicly share our story to raise awareness of the critical need to reform Japanese Family Courts. I was exceptionally pleased, not to mention quite surprised, when Leena Balanag contacted me after her teacher shared our Metropolis story with her class.
Leena, a 5th grade student at Tokyo’s K’s International School, chose custody laws as the topic of her final school project with a special emphasis on my children Spencer and Amelia. With her mother Joyce’s help, she interviewed numerous experts, although she was disappointed to find the Foreign Ministry’s Division for Issues Related to Child Custody completely uncooperative.
On May 8th, Leena and her mother traveled to Okazaki to meet her final interviewees- Spencer and me. She proved to have a firm grasp of the subject, an inquiring mind, and a sincere desire to see changes in the system and to help Spencer- qualities that belie her age. More importantly, we all became fast friends.
After returning to Tokyo, Leena started a blog to discuss her findings/ custody issues (http://www.letsbefriendscampaign.blogspot.com/), presented her project at the school exhibition and started working on a children’s petition to ask why Japanese law takes away one parent after divorce. Leena is an excellent advocate for children. Spencer and I are honored to work with Leena to continue building momentum to bring about positive changes. Please visit her blog for updates on her petition and to learn how you can help.
To learn how to help please follow the link www.foreveryourfather.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
According to Japan Today a couple from Miyazu in Kyoto Prefecture, who were arrested in July for putting their 6-year-old daughter in a washing machine overnight to discipline her, had abused the girl on many occasions before, police said Tuesday.
The couple, who have been identified as 24-year-old Mariko Hayashi and 26-year-old Keiji Fujii, have confessed to binding the girl’s hands with tape and putting her in the washing machine during the night of July 11.
Police said their investigations have uncovered a history of violence and mistreatment in the household.
According to police, the couple forced the girl to remember over 20 behavioral rules, including saying “itadakimasu” before eating and remembering to eat slowly. When the girl failed to recite the entire list from memory on July 11, her hands were tied together, her mouth was gagged and she was placed in washing machine.
The couple have also admitted to hitting the girl. Fujii was quoted by police as saying he hit the girl because she was eating her dinner too fast. Meanwhile, Hayashi told police, “Using violence to discipline children is completely normal.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Lee Jay Walker a Tokyo correspondent for the Seoul Times. He wrote an article about international child abduction as it relates to Japan. He mentions how the police are no help and that there is no enforcement within the legal system. He mentions the Children’s Right Council of Japan and how they have been fighting the issue of international child abduction for almost 20 years without success. Lee also states that Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Hague Convention. But Japan has signed and ratified the United Nation Convention of the right of the Child but they don’t honor that treaty. Click on the link below to read the whole story.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
About 50 left behind parents got together on Father’s Day in Tokyo to raise awareness about Japan’s growing Family Law Problems. Japan doesn’t have a joint custody system like most western countries, so when couples divorce one parent (usually the father) looses parental rights/visitation rights. Sometimes children are abducted by one parent to their home country. Some Japanese parents can’t see their child because he/she is in another country. Some foreign parents can’t see their kids because they have been abducted to Japan and the spouse is refusing all contact. Still other parents live in Japan both far and near from their kids but they can’t see them because the spouse or family court has denied access to one parent. All the parents in attendance believe it is best for children to have both parents and they want the government of Japan to take action so children have the love and attention of both parents.
Click on the link to watch the video:
TV coverage of protest
Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) televised a short 14 minute piece on Joint Custody (Kyoudou Shinken) on June 8th. It was a short but good program aired in Osaka that focused on 2 women. One woman can only see her kids 4 times per year when the kids spend the day at her parents house. The other woman’s children are in America (Utah). Since Japan has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction the father will not let the children visit Japan. She would like Japan to sign the Hague so her kids can come to Japan and visit and learn about Japanese culture. ABC said they would do more stories related to this issue in the future. Hopefully, they will continue their series on “how to help children”. Please watch the two part video. Two lawyers and some other parents also voice their opinions in the video.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From Japan Today, a woman in Seya, Kanagawa Prefecture was arrested on Tuesday after confessing to drowning her 12-day-old son. According to police, Sumiko Takeuchi, 41, was bathing the infant, named Takeyoshi, on Tuesday morning while her husband, a 48-year-old unemployed man, was out shopping. At around 9:50 a.m. she allegedly held the boy under the water until he drowned.
Takeuchi’s husband returned home and discovered the pair in the bathroom and called emergency services. Takeyoshi was taken to a Yokohama hospital where he was pronounced dead three hours later.
Takeuchi was quoted by police as saying: “I started to worry about his future because I lost faith in my ability to raise him.” She also claimed she had intended to kill herself as well, but couldn’t go through with it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Three part video on reforming family law in Japan. Currently many parents are working to change the law so joint custody will be possible in Japan. You will learn about joint custody in America and how custody differs in Japan. You will learn about the common problems with the family law system in Japan too. Please click on the links to watch the videos (all videos are in English).
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Another unbelievable story from Japan Today. It seems the judges and police are both negligent and unwilling to take adequate steps to protect women and children from abuse. I fail to understand the logic behind the judges ruling. Nor do I understand why the police are so unsympathetic.
Here is the story from Japan Today. The Fukuoka District Court on Tuesday gave a suspended sentence to a 23-year-old man who caused severe injuries to his 9-month-old daughter by throwing her against a wall.
In sentencing Yuki Okada to two years in prison, suspended for four years, Judge Yoshiya Yoshizaki said that Okada had ‘‘committed the act after getting upset because his daughter stopped crying when his wife consoled her but started crying when he did the same.’‘
Okada, a company employee, threw his daughter against a wall twice at their home in the city of Fukuoka on April 14, breaking her thigh bone, according to the ruling. He was also found guilty of causing minor injuries to his wife by hitting her on the head with an umbrella in January.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Colin Jones, law professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, has written a paper titled “IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE COURT: WHAT AMERICAN LAWYERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION IN JAPAN”. The title speaks for itself. If you are divorced, thinking about getting a divorce, or know someone that is divorced, I highly recommend that they read this long and informative paper about the Family Courts in Japan.
Professor Jones discusses judges, mediators, investigators, custody (shinken & kangoken), visitation rights, and more.
You can read the full 104 page pdf report here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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