Old and recent stories about my travels to prefectural offices

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Human Rights | Tags: , , , |

Interview about child rights in October of 2011.

Interview about child rights, joint custody, and my visit to 45 prefectures.

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Highlights of the last 4 months

Posted on January 16, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation | Tags: , , |

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

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Joint Custody Poll

Posted on January 6, 2012. Filed under: Polls | Tags: , , |

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Summary of the Prefectural Offices I visited

Posted on December 26, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , |

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.

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US divorce lawyers blog about my cycling trip

Posted on November 16, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child | Tags: , , , , |

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.

dallasdivorceattorneysblog

divorcelawyerillinoisblog

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October 16th, 2011 Demo for Joint Custody in Tokyo

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

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 shimbun

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Joint Custody Challenge by NHK

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

NHK does a very nice job with their short piece on Joint Custody. Professor Tanase, a specialist in child development does a great job. She talks about what needs to be done and what is best for the kids. Click the link to watch the short program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZjsrgoiGF4

 

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American cycles across Japan to raise awareness on child rights

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention, United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Kevinbrown photo

TOKYO, Oct. 15 — (Kyodo) _ (EDS: ONE PHOTO AVAILABLE)

An American who has been separated from his 6-year-old son due to his divorce from his Japanese wife completed a month-long 1,500-kilometer bike ride from Kyushu to Tokyo this week to raise awareness on the issue of child custody. Along the way, he stopped at local government offices to lobby for children’s rights to have access to both parents.

Kevin Brown, a 45-year-old English teacher and the founding director of civic group “Children First” in central Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, said that during his visits to more than 10 prefectural and municipal government offices he explained that children’s steady access to both parents should be guaranteed in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Brown, a native of Illinois, was parted from his son four years ago when his wife moved from Nagoya to southwestern Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture. Every six weeks he travels by overnight bus to the prefecture in the Kyushu region to see the boy for five hours — the maximum amount of time agreed upon during the divorce settlement.

“When I started research, I was really disappointed in what I found — the sole custody system. Usually, the winner is the person who abducts the kids first,” Brown said in an interview with Kyodo News. “I want a kind of unlimited access to my son. Once every six weeks is not enough.”

The father said he learned of the Japanese child-custody system in the middle of the divorce proceedings, which were finalized in September. “I would like the kind of American system where, you know, every other weekend, overnight visits, birthdays, holidays you get to see the kids,” he said.

The English teacher said that since his son was only 2 when they were parted, the boy only speaks Japanese and has difficulty communicating with his father, who does not speak much Japanese.

Family courts in Japan tend to give mothers sole custody after divorce and it is not unusual for children to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up. Brown pointed out that the average visitation awarded by the courts to parents without custody is four hours a month.

Brown said he underlined during his meetings with local government officials that Japan, which ratified the U.N. convention in 1994, has not implemented policies to secure children’s access to both parents and that the country is the only Group of Seven member to adopt the sole custody system upon divorce.

Article 9 of the U.N. pact says state parties “shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.”

The other G-7 countries are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States.

The campaigner said some local government officials in charge of child welfare were not well aware of the issue related to visitations as they focused on protecting children from abuse and were “not too familiar with good parents not being able to see their kids.”

Although some workers told Brown that what local governments can do is limited as the matter should be handled by the central government, he said the awareness-raising tour was meaningful as “the first step in making change.”

Japan recently launched preparations for joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which establishes procedures for settling international child custody disputes.

However, Brown’s case will not be covered by the pact because it is not retroactive, only applying to cases that occur after its entry into force in Japan, and also because it deals with cross-border parental child abductions.

In late September, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Tokyo’s decision to enter into the Hague Convention but asked Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda during their summit talks in New York that the Japanese government also “focus on the preexisting cases,” according to the U.S. State Department.

Noda said he was aware of the 123 active cases involving children who have been abducted from the United States to Japan, and vowed to “take special care to focus on these particular issues,” the state department said.

(c) 2011 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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Cycling to raise awareness about children’s rights

Posted on September 26, 2011. Filed under: Human Rights, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , |

As some of my blog readers know, I am cycling from Kumamoto to Tokyo to raise awareness about children’s rights. As a result I have been unable to keep my blog up to date. I am now in Okayama. I guess it is about the halfway point. I will hopefully end my awareness tour in Tokyo on the 17th of October. If you would like to follow my awareness tour please check out the Children First Japan Facebook page and the Joint Custody Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/oyako

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Children-First-Japan/115396388532379

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Japan Times に掲載された記事「Japan’s ‘silent tsunami’ severs parental ties, wrecks children’s lives」のケビン・ブラウンさんによる文章の日本語訳です。

Posted on September 4, 2011. Filed under: Divorce, Japanese Family Law, Parental Alienation Syndrome, United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child | Tags: , , , , , |

Japan Times 2011年8月30日(火)
永田町へのホットライン

次期首相へ

私は、子供の問題に焦点を当てたNPO「Children First」(childrenfirst.jp)の、共同設立者です。
3分毎に新たな子どもが親の離婚によって両親の片方から断絶されています。 7分 毎に新たな子どもが学校いじめの犠牲者になっています。 12分毎に児童虐待に関する新たなケースが保護施設に報告されています。 毎週、少なくとも1 人の子供がこうした児童虐待の結果として死んでいます。

「Children First」は、これらの問題と子供に影響のあることについての他の問題を克服するために活動しています。 しかし、私たちだけでは実現できません。日本が子供にとってより良い場所になるためには、国会議員や政策立案者の助けが必要です。

ほとんどの人々がいじめと虐待の存在に気付いています。これらの2つの問題はしば しば新聞に掲載されます。 しかし、私や多く の他の親達が更に憂慮すべきだと考える問題は、3分毎に子どもの離婚後の片方の親との連絡が絶えてしまうということです。

3月11日に1万6000人以上が死にました。その他に5,000が行方不明になっています。数百ないし何千人もの子供が当日、少なくとも片方の親を失いました。
3月11日以 来、それとは別に更に8万2000人以上の子供が両親の離婚のために片方の親からの連絡を失っています。

これは、日本中に癌のように広まっている静かな悲劇です。 それによって、子ども達は彼らの最大限の可能性を広げることができません。それは家 族と家族重視の価値観を滅ぼしています。それは子どもを、将来についての混乱の最中に放り出したままにし、そして普通の生活を送れる可能性を小さくします。 何組かの親子は想像を絶する深 い悲しみの中に取り残されます。これは多く の人々が知らない静かな津波です。 家裁と日本の法システムが、この悲劇が続くことを許しているのです。

2006年に最高裁判所は、「子どもを持つどんなカップルも、離れて暮らす場合について考えなければならない」というタイトルのDVDを作りました。驚いたことに、家裁はこのビデオを両親に見せません。かなり正反対であることに、彼らはこのDVDの存在を隠します。そして家裁裁判官は、子供が幸福になるためには両方の両親が必要であるとするDVDのメッセージに直接的に反対の判決を下します。家裁弁護士の中にはこのビデオが存在することに気づかない人も います。

今、平均的なケースでは、親はその子どもと共に月に4時間の交流が出来ます。これは子どもの人生に関わったり、その人生に変化を与えることがほとんどできないほど、少ない時間です。親の中には、子どもの保護監督権のない親と子どもとが一度は持っていた親子関係を破壊するために、「親の疎外」を行う人もいます。

国連児童憲章(UNCRC)によると、子どもは両方の両親との関係を持つ権利を与えられます。もし何らかの理由で親子が離れて暮らす場合には、州(state:日本)は離れて暮らす親子の交流を回復しなければなりません。もちろん、これは決して行われません。
そういうわけで、家裁は二度のミスを犯しています。最高裁判所DVDのアドバイスに従いませんし、彼らはUNCRCを無視 します。(UNCRCは法律相当です)。

私は、日本中の裁判官の判決を見直して、悪い判決をする裁判官を取り除く時期であると思います。私は、裁判官は時々ケース・ファイル(裁判資料?)を見てさえいなく、また裁判の準備ができていないと、弁護士に言われました。悪い裁判官はその椅子から退ける必要があります。

首相、私は、悪い裁判官を免職し、子どもには両方の両親との長くて有意義な関係があるのだという法案を可決するために、必要な措置を取るようお願いしています。加えて私は、子どもを虐待といじめから守るためにより役立つ法案を可決して、虐待といじめを報告するためのより良い政策を実施して欲しいと思います。教師と官僚は、虐待といじめを防止するキーです。効果をあげるために必要な手段を彼らに与えることを願っています。

現在、私は裁判を抱えていますが、その内容はすぐに変わるべきです。9月13日に、裁判官は離婚と親権に関する判決を出すでしょう。前例の通りであるならば、私は100%負けるでしょう。私は、私の所轄裁判所のある熊本から東京の最高裁判所まで、自転車に乗って行くことを計画しています。私は家族法を変えることを要求するつもりです。私は道中、県庁に寄って知事達からの支持を集めるつもりです。私はそのために8週間の休暇を取りました。「Children First」の日本のフェイスブックページ(http://www.facebook.com/pages/Children-First-Japan/115396388532379)や、「共同親権」の日本のフェースブックページ(http://www.facebook.com/oyako)で、私の計画の経過を見守ることができます。そしてまた、私のブログ「Children First Japan」(https://kwbrow2.wordpress.com)で、私の旅行に関する詳しい情報が得られます。

ケビン・ブラウン
名古屋

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Detailed schedule of my bike ride

Posted on August 23, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Uplifting Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Below is my detailed schedule of my bike ride from Kumamoto to Tokyo. I will be starting on the 13th of September in Kumamoto.  I will hopefully end my ride on the 18th of October.  I attended an Oyakonet Kansai meeting on Sunday and some people have already volunteered (through mixi) to let me stay at their residence. I have a place to stay in Fukuoka, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Shiga (Hikone), Nagoya, Okazaki, Yokohama, and Tokyo.  Some will even accompany me to the prefectural offices. A big thanks to all those who intend to help me along the way.  Everyone will be able to follow me on my trip in a few different ways. I will make posts to this blog, children first facebook page, and joint custody facebook page. In large part, my trip is to raise awareness about the need to change Japanese Family Law. More specifically, children need both parents in their life to be happy. Currently, every 3 seconds a child loses contact with one parent after divorce. Every year 100’s of thousands of children lose half of their family. Japan is way behind the rest of the civilized world in terms of international norms. My hope is to garner media attention and support from governor’s of Japan. I would like Japan to finally take the steps needed to make it a better place for children.

date day holiday prefecture city pref. office court int.school flyer event
?
km time
12-Sep Mon 熊本 Kumamoto 熊本 Kumamoto
13-Sep Tue Kumamoto Kumamoto
佐賀 Saga 佐賀 Saga 82.7 6:43
14-Sep Wed Saga Saga ×
福岡 Fukuoka 福岡 Fukuoka 69.4 5:50
15-Sep Thu Fukuoka Fukuoka
16-Sep Fri Fukuoka Fukuoka
17-Sep Sat Fukuoka Fukuoka
18-Sep Sun Fukuoka 北九州 Kitakyushu 71.6 6:06
19-Sep Mon 山口 Yamaguchi 山口 Yamaguchi 90.4 7:54
20-Sep Tue Yamaguchi Yamaguchi ×
広島 Hiroshima 広島 Hiroshima 152.0 13:04
21-Sep Wed Hiroshima Hiroshima
22-Sep Thu Hiroshima Hiroshima
23-Sep Fri Hiroshima Hiroshima
24-Sep Sat Hiroshima Hiroshima
Hiroshima 福山 Fukuyama 108.3 9:08
25-Sep Sun Hiroshima Fukuyama
岡山 Okayama 岡山 Okayama 61.9 5:08
26-Sep Mon Okayama Okayama ×
27-Sep Tue Okayama Okayama
兵庫 Hyogo 姫路 Himeji × 82.3 6:54
Hyogo 神戸 Kobe 59.9 4:56
28-Sep Wed Hyogo Kobe
29-Sep Thu Hyogo Kobe
大阪 Osaka 大阪 Osaka 36.4 2:51
30-Sep Fri Osaka Osaka
1-Oct Sat Osaka Osaka
2-Oct Sun 京都 Kyoto 京都 Kyoto 49.2 4:02
3-Oct Mon Kyoto Kyoto
4-Oct Tue Kyoto Kyoto
滋賀 Shiga 大津 Otsu × 14.4 1:16
5-Oct Wed 岐阜 Gifu 岐阜 Gifu × 113.2 9:09
愛知 Aichi 名古屋 Nagoya 39.1 3:05
6-Oct Thu Aichi Nagoya
Aichi 岡崎 Okazaki × 40.7 3:20
7-Oct Fri Aichi Okazaki
8-Oct Sat Aichi Okazaki
Aichi 豊橋 Toyohashi 29.9 2:28
9-Oct Sun 静岡 Shizuoka 浜松 Hamamatsu 41.3 3:29
10-Oct Mon Shizuoka 静岡 Shizuoka 100.6 8:22
11-Oct Tue Shizuoka Shizuoka
Shizuoka 富士 Fuji 39.3 3:14
12-Oct Wed Shizuoka Fuji city branch ×
神奈川 Kanagawa 小田原 Odawara city branch × 66.4 5:48
Kanagawa 横浜 Yokohama 56.7 4:35
13-Oct Thu Kanagawa Yokohama
14-Oct Fri Kanagawa Yokohama
15-Oct Sat 東京 Tokyo 東京 Tokyo 34.5 2:51
16-Oct Sun Tokyo Tokyo
17-Oct Mon Tokyo Tokyo
18-Oct Tue Tokyo Tokyo
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Cycling from Kumamoto to Tokyo to Raise Awareness about Child Rights

Posted on July 31, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Hague Convention, Human Rights, Japanese Family Law, Parental Alienation Syndrome, United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

I have made some modifications to my cycling trip.  I have decided to start in Kumamoto on the 13th of September. I picked this day because the judge will rule on my case on the 13th. I was expecting the ruling much earlier. As a result I thought it would be best to delay my start. It seems kind of symbolic to start in Kumamoto. I have a had to make numerous trips to Kumamoto for court.   I can pick up my ruling on the 13th and then start cycling. It would be nice if I could get press or left behind parents to see me off on the 13th. If you don’t have plans feel free to meet me at the Kumamoto Family Court on the 13th of September.

I am still planning to handout flyers along the way. I am still planning on stopping  at governors offices, court houses, and international schools. Due to my late start I may not have time to cycle all the way to Hokkaido. I will play it by ear.  There are numerous left behind parents who  can support me from Kumamoto to Tokyo but much less support exists between Tokyo and Hokkaido.  I am working with other left behind parents now to pin down the exact days I will be in Saga, Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Otsu, Gifu, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Yokohama, and Tokyo.  I will be making updates on the Joint Custody in Japan Facebook page and the Children First Facebook page as well as my Facebook page. Please check one of these places every week or so.

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Children First at the Nagoya Walkathon

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: Orphanages, Uplifting Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Children First was one of many charities at the walkathon at Morikoro Park on May 22nd. Children First was selling shirts, magnets, coffee cups, buttons, and they also sold a wide variety of food. Many families attended. Children First was handing out free balloons with the help of kids from the Nagoya International School. The balloons were a big hit with the kids. The weather was good most of the day. Many left behind parents came to help with the event. All of the proceeds went to charity. We did not sell as much as we hoped to but it was an overall good experience.  Next year we will be better prepared and more organized. To see some pictures of this event please visit the Children First Facebook Page. childrenfirstfacebook Children first is dedicated to protecting the rights of children. To learn more about Children First please visit our website www.childrenfirst.jp

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A Father’s Plea: Desperate Effort to Return American Children Abducted to Japan

Posted on February 16, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Video | Tags: , , , , |

Thousands of miles away, hundreds of American children are being kept in Japan, victims of parental abduction, out of reach of their other parent and out of reach of the U.S. government.

Among the circles of left-behind parents in the U.S., many of them fathers, Japan is known as a safe haven for parental abductions. Once overseas, the parent who abducted the child is protected by the Japanese government’s unwillingness to sign the Hague Convention, a treaty that provides for the return of abducted children to their home country.

The U.S. Department of State has tried for years to negotiate Japan’s signature on the Hague Convention and to try and resolve some of the 321 cases that have been filed with the department during the last 17 years. But not one child has ever been returned to the U.S. from Japan through diplomatic measures, according to the State Department.

Below are the stories of three American fathers who are desperately seeking contact with their children.

Having a family wasn’t something Michael Elias planned on as a young Marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan. But after his Japanese girlfriend Mayumi called him with the news she was pregnant with their daughter, Elias said he eagerly made the transition into husband and father.

He brought Mayumi to the United States and married her. Their daughter, Jade, was born months later.

Just before Elias deployed to Iraq in 2007, they found out Mayumi was pregnant again. Their son Michael was born while he was overseas.

With his young family waiting for him at home, Elias counted the days until he returned to the United States. But his Humvee was hit by an IED and Elias, blown back into the cabin, suffered a traumatic brain injury.

When he returned home, he said, things had changed.

“It wasn’t the same as when I had left,” he said.

Mayumi soon began dating another Japanese national – a travel agent. Elias got a girlfriend.

But when the two went to court to begin deciding custody for Jade and baby Michael, a judge ordered neither party to leave New Jersey with the children – and demanded Mayumi turn over the children’s American and Japanese passports, which she did.

Months later, in December 2008, Mayumi disappeared with the children, taking them to Japan.

Elias, who later learned through flight records that his children had been given duplicate passports at a Japanese consulate, was devastated.

He has since been cut off from all contact with his children. He last saw an image of Jade, now 5, in a Skype conversation more than a year ago. He fears his son Michael, now 3 1/2, will no longer remember him.

ABC News was unable to locate Mayumi for comment.

Elias is hoping the U.S. Department of State will someday be able to bring his children back home.

“When I was asked to serve in a war I did it without question,” Elias said. “And now all I ask is for something [that] belongs to not only me, this country.”

Navy Cdr. Paul Toland first spotted his future wife at a running club while he was stationed in Japan. Too shy to talk to her at first, he said he eventually worked up enough nerve to ask her out using a Japanese-English translator.

It was a gesture, he says, that would lead to years of happy marriage and the birth of their daughter, Erika.

By the time Erika was born in 2002, Toland and his wife Etsuko had been married for seven years. She became a U.S. citizen shortly after in preparation for the family’s eventual move back to the United States.

But when Erika was less than a year old, Etsuko, who Toland said had became increasingly unhappy, took Erika from their Navy housing and cut off all contact.

“I was at work one day and I got a phone call from my neighbors saying ‘Are you moving back to the States? … And I said what are you talking about,'” Toland said. “And they said ‘Well, there’s a moving van outside your house.’ When I got home my wife and my daughter and all our stuff was gone.”

Etsuko committed suicide four years later and her mother, Akiko Futagi immediately took guardianship of Erika. Toland, Erika’s sole surviving parent, has never been allowed to spend time with his daughter.

ABC News found Futagi and Erika in northern Tokyo. Futagi accused Toland of being a dead-beat feather who has never paid her for raising his daughter.

“He doesn’t pay anything to bring her up,” Futagi said. When asked if she would let Toland see Erika, her response was quick. “No,” she said.

Toland said he has tried to put money into a bank account for his daughter, but Futagi rejected his lawyer’s offer.

“The State Department has tried to visit with my daughter a number of times and have been rejected,” Toland said. “They even asked the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to try to visit with my daughter and they were rejected. And once again they came back and said, ‘Sorry, we tried there’s nothing we can do.'”

Scott Sawyer never dreamed his once happy family would be destroyed, and that his only child would be thousands of miles out of reach.

But after he filed for divorce from his ex-wife in 2008, she took off for her native Japan, brining their then-2-year-old son, Wayne, with her. He hasn’t seen his son since.

“My concern is for my son,” Sawyer said. “What kind of life is he having in Japan right now? What has he been told about why he can’t see his father?”

It was something he feared would happen. Before his wife left California with their son, he tried to convince a judge she was a flight risk. Court documents show his ex was ordered to turn over her passport.

“She had said repeatedly, ‘I want to go to Japan. I want to take the baby to Japan,'” he said. “I knew if that happened they wouldn’t come back.”

Sawyer’s ex, who spoke to ABC News under the condition that we not use her name or show her face, said she knows she is considered a kidnapper. It was something, she said, she felt she had to do. She did not think she could survive on her own in the United States.

“At the time, my choices was just two – kidnapper or die,” she said. “I can’t live in Los Angeles.”

She told ABC News she fears Sawyer will kidnap their son and bring him back to the United States.

“If he promise me that he doesn’t, he will not kidnap my son from Japan, he can see my son any time,” she said. “I would really, no problem. I will support my ex in Japan.”

abduction video

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French father commits suicide because he can’t see his child

Posted on February 1, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, France, Hague Convention, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

The life and career of Arnaud Simon once could have exemplified the excellent relationship between Japan and France. A young French historian teaching in Tokyo, Simon was preparing a thesis on the history of thought during the Edo Period. He was married to a Japanese woman. They had one son.

But on Nov. 20, Arnaud Simon took his own life. He hanged himself. He did not need to leave an explanatory note; his closest friends knew he had lost the appetite for living because his wife would not allow Simon to see his son after their marriage broke up. Simon apparently tried on multiple occasions to take his boy home from school, but the police blocked the young father each time.

“The lawyers he met were trying to appease him, not help him,” one of his former colleagues remembers.

Another Frenchman in the same situation, Christophe Guillermin, committed suicide in June. These two deaths are terrible reminders of the hell some foreign parents inhabit in Japan – and because of Japan. When a couple separates here, custody of any children is traditionally awarded to the mother. After that, the children rarely have contact with the “other side”; they are supposed to delete the losing parent from their lives.

There is no tradition of visitation rights in Japan, and even when those rights are granted, the victory generally comes at the end of a long and costly judicial battle fought in Japanese courts. The visitation rights given are also typically very limited – sometimes just a couple of hours per month. Worse yet, the mother ultimately decides whether she wants to abide by the agreement. The police will not intervene if she refuses, on the grounds that this is a private matter. While there are exceptions, Japanese fathers seem to have basically accepted this practice. For foreign fathers, it is almost universally impossible and unbearable.

France is particularly touched by these tragedies. There have been many unions between Japanese women and French men, and many breakups. Simon’s death was shocking enough to the French community for the French ambassador to issue a stern and in many ways personal press release afterward: “Mr. Simon recently told the Consulate of the hardships he endured to meet his son, and it is most probable that to be cut off from his son was one of the main reasons (for his suicide). This reminds us, if necessary, of the pain of the 32 French fathers and of the 200 other (foreign cases involving) fathers known to foreign consulates as deprived of their parental rights.”
A Killing Separation

During a recent trip related to this subject in Japan, French judge and legal expert Mahrez Abassi said: “Japan has not ratified the Hague Convention on civil aspects of international children’s abductions. There is no bilateral convention on this topic, and our judicial decisions are not recognized in Japan.” Tokyo is in a precarious position on this issue, since one of the main topics of Japan’s diplomacy is the case of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, for which Japan requires international solidarity.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems preoccupied by the problem, which only promises to grow because of the constant rise of international divorces in Japan – now at 6 percent – and of Japanese-foreign births (20,000). Various diplomatic delegations have visited Japan to discuss the issue. France and Japan set up a “consulting committee on the child at the center of a parental conflict” in December 2009. But the National Police Agency, the Justice Ministry, and Japanese civil society in general care little about the issue.

“There is no system better than another for the child after a breakup,” says a foreign psychiatrist who has followed cases of foreign fathers that have lost access to their children in Japan. “The French and American systems have deep flaws as well. But it is simply unbearable for a French father, for example, to be unable to meet his child.”

A French lawyer based in Tokyo, adds: “The principle of joint custody as it is known in France does not exist in Japan. To implement such a principle here, we would have to amend the Civil Code, which is very hard for family law matters in this country. If this change is enacted, the police should then compel Japanese families to hand over the ‘disputed’ child to the foreign father. This seems pretty hard to achieve.” ❶

Regis Arnaud is the Japan correspondent of leading French daily Le Figaro and has been covering Japan since 1995. He is also a movie producer. His next project, called CUT, laments the decline of the Japanese movie industry.

A killing separation By: Regis Arnaud

Number 1 Shimbun, December 16, 2010

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Mom and boyfriend arrested for punching, biting woman’s 3-year-old daughter

Posted on January 23, 2011. Filed under: Abuse Neglect Death | Tags: , , , , |

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.

story in Japanese

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Parents plea for an end to child abduction in Japan (video)

Posted on January 22, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

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.

Stop the abductions now

Joint Custody video

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Joint Custody/Parental Alienation Demo and Symposium

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

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.

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International Divorce and Japanese Family Law

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention, Japanese Family Law, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , |

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_

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U.S. may up child custody pressure

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

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.

By DAVID CARRY
The Associated Press

Click here to read the full story

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Fifth Grader Making a Difference

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Uplifting Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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.com

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Father’s Day Protest in Tokyo (video)

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , |

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

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Asahi Broadcasting Corp. on Joint Custody & the Hague

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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.

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Three part video on reforming Japanese Family Law

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, Video | Tags: , , , , , , |

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).

Part I

Part II

Part III

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Supreme Court Video that No One Can See

Posted on January 12, 2011. Filed under: Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

supreme court cover

Two articles concerning a secret Supreme Court Video were posted in the April 20th, 2011 edition of the Japan Times. What kind of video does the Supreme    Court want to keep secret? Well, this video is about divorce and what parents must consider when they live apart. How are the children affected? Kevin’s article talks about how the courts fail, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and the recent pressure from 8 nations asking Japan to sign the Hague. Link for Kevin’s article.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100420hn.html

Colin’s article is longer and covers several different things. First he talks about how separation is hard on the kids. Second, his extensive online research for the DVD turned up almost nothing. Third, he considered the DVD to be well made with a good message. Fourth, he talks a little about divorce statistics. And finally, he gives his opinion on why the DVD is not shown. Link for Colin’s article:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100420zg.html

by Colin P.A. Jones (Lawyer at prominent University in Kyoto)

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Study Session about Reforming Japanese Family Law

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

On Sunday the 25th of April (2010) a study session related to reforming family law was held in Kyoto. The study session was sponsored by Oyako-net Kansai. The keynote speaker was Mr. Nonoyama a lawyer who practices in the Kansai area. Nonoyama sensei is good friends with Tanase sensei (another lawyer based in Tokyo) who is also interested in reforming family law in Japan. One of the first things Nonoyama sensei said was it is too easy to get a divorce in Japan. You only have to sign a sheet of paper to get a divorce. There are no requirements (as in many western countries) for parents to make or agree to a joint parenting plan. This parenting plan outlines the details of how the children will be raised. It covers everything from where the children will live to where and how they will spend their vacations with each respective parent. Nonoyama sensei implied that Japan needs a similar system.

Domestic Violence (DV) was another big topic that was brought up in the question and answer session. Nonoyama sensei was clear that there are some domestic violence cases and that the women in these cases need protection but he was also clear that most divorce cases do NOT involve DV. In non-DV cases there needs to be some type of enforcement. If a mother refuses visitation then that mother needs to be penalized. He equated denial of parental visitation as abuse. Excuses such as your son does not want to see you and your son is sick were not valid reasons (in most cases) to deny visitation. Nonoyama sensei said he would continue to work with Tanase sensei to reform family law. These two lawyers seemed to have some great ideas but there seems to be some resistance with the diet and the public. It sounds like there is still a lot of hard work that needs to be done.

One Japanese mother (whose children are living in America with their American father) spoke during the question and answer session.  She said Japan must sign the Hague. Her ex-husband is refusing to let her children travel to Japan for a visit because Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction. She said she and her extended family are heartbroken that her kids can not experience Japanese culture. She said if Japan signed the Hague it would then be possible for her children to travel to Japan for vacation.

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Need for Joint Custody

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Hague Convention, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , |

Masako Akeo has had 2 articles published recently related to the need for joint custody. In the first article she talks about the rights of a child, suing Keiko Chiba (Minister of Justice), and being prohibited from going to her son’s school. But more importantly she mentions the need for joint custody. Many other nations have a joint custody system in place and children have regular and meaningful contact with both parents on a weekly basis. The article also mentions Kozue Sugano a left behind Japanese mother whose child was taken to Bangladesh by her Bangladeshi ex-husband. Kozue has no access to her child and hopes Japan will sign the Hague Convention.

Left-Behind Parents Want End to Single Child Custody System

Masako’s second article, talks about the need for Japan to sign the Hague Convention as soon as possible. Japan must also revise it family law system to reflect the needs of today’s society. This means Japan needs “joint custody”. Masako also tells a brief story of how her ex managed to get sole custody of her son and her current attempts and struggles to see her son.

Masako Akeo: Japanese Laws Should Encourage Joint Custody

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