http://www.kaaltv.com/article/stories/S4447812.shtml?cat=10728
April 07, 2017 05:27 PM

A Maple Grove man is asking the Trump Administration to pressure Japan to give his children back.

James Cook was in Washington D.C. Thursday fighting for his kids.

He testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. They’re investigating international treaties to return children abducted by a parent.

Cook’s wife took their four kids to Japan in 2014. He has been awarded custody, but can’t get them back.

Cook told the congressional committee he hopes Vice President Mike Pence will help when he visits Japan in late April.

“I hereby respectfully request that Vice President Mike Pence speak with these Japanese officials and ask them to have Japan meet their international obligation to comply with the Hague convention and return our children to their habitual residence in Minnesota,” he said.

“Excuses may be offered why they cannot, but I know Japan will force their return if required.”

Cook said Congressman Erik Paulsen has been supportive of his efforts.

“This is a situation no parent or child should ever have to go through, and I completely sympathize with James and his children during this trying episode,” Paulsen said in an emailed statement.

“My office and I have been exploring various channels to reunite James with his four kids and hope we can help the Cook family reach a resolution soon.”

The issue of international family abduction is complicated. And it’s something many don’t hear much about.

Cook has been working with Jane Straub from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center to figure out how to get his children back.

The last time he saw them was 2015.

“I have two sets of twins,” he said. “I have 14-year old-boys and I have a 9-year-old boy and girl.”

Cook said his wife Hitomi Arimitsu took the children to see her family in Japan in September of 2014, then stopped communicating with him.

He showed court rulings he’s won locally and internationally, including Japan, that give him custody.

“So (in) total (I’ve) probably won 10 cases up to this point,” he said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached Cook’s wife Hitomi Arimitsu in Japan.

She said international child abduction is not what is going on in this case. She claims she and James had an agreement she would take the children to Japan.

“I have made numerous attempts to facilitate contact between him and the children,” Arimitsu said.

“James does not take advantage of any of them. I want them to have a relationship with their father. Regardless of my disagreements with him regarding our marriage, I think it is important for him to be in their life.”

Arimitsu’s attorney said that in February a Japanese court reversed a previous order about jurisdiction, moving the power to make legal decisions and judgments from Minnesota to Japan.  Cook says Hennepin County court possess jurisdiction over their children, not Japan.  He says is appealing the ruling to a higher court in Japan.

Japan has signed treaties that are supposed to prevent international child abduction.

But Cook said Japan has been non-compliant from the beginning.

He said custody battles in Japan are considered private, and children basically belong to the parent who has them.

“And that’s how they view children, quite honestly – as possessions,” he said. “Not as human beings, but as possessions.”

Straub said a case like Cook’s doesn’t always get the attention in should.

“You know working at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, people think (the) only people that take children are strangers,” Straub said.

“We know parent-child abductions happen. And just because that person is a parent, it doesn’t mean that that child is safe.”

Cook said he won’t give up the fight for his kids.

“It’s important to remember these are four little people,” he said. “Four human beings, four U.S. citizens. They’re literally being held hostage in a foreign land.

“And we have the power as a country to get them back.”

 

Credits

Kevin Doran

Copyright 2017 – KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

https://www.stripes.com/news/us-court-rules-against-soldier-returns-baby-to-okinawa-mom-1.460354#.WOK0LRiZPVo

 

By CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 24, 2017

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A 20-month-old girl returned to her Okinawa home from the United States last week — the island’s first child-return case under the Hague Convention on cross-border parental kidnapping since Japan joined the treaty in 2014.

In February, the U.S. Middle District Court in Florida ordered the child’s father — a Maryland-based U.S. soldier — to return the child to her mother on Okinawa, which the court acknowledged as the girl’s “habitual residence,” said attorney Masanori Takeda.

Child abduction has long been a concern for U.S. servicemembers and some in Congress, who initially called on Tokyo to ratify the Hague Convention and have since called for tougher enforcement within Japan.

Cultural and legal obstacles in Japan — where child abduction by one parent isn’t always viewed as a crime — have previously prevented U.S. servicemembers and other citizens from gaining custody or seeing their children in Japan.

In this case, a judge ultimately determined that a soldier had unlawfully kept his child from the mother.

The couple “had very limited language communications” when they married in 2014 and resided with the woman’s teenage son, according to a Florida court complaint filed by the woman.

In March 2015, the woman, then pregnant, and her son moved with the soldier to their new post in Maryland, Takeda said.

After reporting domestic and sexual abuse, the Army Family Advocacy Program helped her and her son return to Okinawa, where the child was born four months later.

That October, the woman was asked by her estranged husband to attend his brother’s wedding in Florida, said Takeda, who added the man yanked the baby from her arms during the visit.

A brief fight ensued, and the woman was arrested after the husband reported domestic violence to police. The woman was unable to explain her version of events in English, according to the complaint.

She was sent to a women’s shelter after the Florida Department of Children and Families acknowledged she was a victim of domestic violence. A social worker observed a 4-by-2-inch bruise on her neck and a “silver dollar sized” bruise on her thigh, according to the court complaint.

The mother said her husband had “choked her and again forced her to have sex against her will,” according to the complaint.

The husband denied the allegations and said she had subjected him to “extreme anger, aggression, and physical violence” going back to when they were stationed in Japan, according to court documents.

Nevertheless, the soldier wrote to her in phone texts that he loved her and that “Me no like divorce talk … me no like back Okinawa talk,” according to court documents.

The soldier argued that his wife returned to the U.S. to join him to live, not just to visit.

The premise that she and the infant intended to remain in the United States was part of the reasoning that convinced a Florida court to grant the soldier custody, according to court documents.

The soldier’s lawyers asserted that the Hague Convention was not applicable to their case because of the Florida court’s judgment.

The mother’s attorneys contended “she had simply wanted a divorce and to return home to Japan with her children.”

Mari Kitada, a lecturer at Tokyo’s Kyorin University who’s an expert on the international parental child abduction treaty, said she believed the Hague Convention ruling was appropriate and consistent with the spirit of the treaty.

“While a U.S. court had awarded the father full parental custody, without the treaty, bringing the child back to Japan would have been impossible,” she said during a phone interview Thursday.

Kitada pointed to recent changes surrounding the pact in the international community, which began to focus more on a child’s best interests instead of solely focusing on the child’s habitual residence.

“As social complexities advance, various factors, to include domestic violence, must be carefully and thoroughly considered to protect the child’s safety and well-being,” she said.

According to the Hague Convention Affairs Office at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 233 petitions for both child returns and visitation arrangements have been filed between April 1, 2014, and March 1, 2017.

Of those, 121 were requests for children to be returned to their habitual residence. Twenty-four of the cases involved parents from the U.S., a ministry spokesman said. The other 112 petitions — 46 involving Americans — were for parents to have access to their children.

Stars and Stripes reporter Erik Slavin contributed to this report.

sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/27/national/crime-legal/reversal-high-court-ditches-good-parent-rule-granted-dad-custody-daughter/#.WIuHj7GZPVo

‘Good parent’ ditched in custody case reversal

The Tokyo High Court has overturned a rare family court decision last year that granted a father custody of his daughter because he was more inclined than his estranged wife to allow greater visitation.

Thursday’s high court ruling, which returns custody of the 9-year-old girl to the mother, emerged during an appeal trial that had left custody in limbo. The parents have been living separately since the mother took off with the child in 2010.

“The daughter has been living with her mother, is growing up healthy and wants to continue living with her mother in the future,” presiding Judge Yoichi Kikuchi said. “Taking into account what is in the best interest of the daughter, it is reasonable that custody is awarded to the mother.”

The initial ruling, handed down in March 2016 by the Chiba Family Court’s Matsudo branch, attracted public attention for applying the “good parent rule,” which grants custody to the parent deemed more inclined to allow greater visitation — and ordered the mother to hand over the girl to the father.

The father had said he would allow his wife to see her daughter 100 days a year if given custody. The mother said she would allow him to see his daughter just once a month.

Thursday’s judgment was based on the principle of continuity, with the court stating that a child’s healthy development is not ensured just by seeing a separated parent.

“The number of days for visitation is not the only criteria to decide who has custody, and is less important compared with other conditions,” the ruling asserted.

“If the daughter, who is an elementary school student, goes back and forth between the parents’ houses for 100 days a year, it would be a physical burden and would affect her relationship with her school and her friends,” the court said, judging that one visit a month is appropriate.

The mother left with her daughter in May 2010 after the couple became estranged. He has not seen the girl since September that year.

The mother issued a statement after the ruling thanking the high court for supporting her claim.

The father said he would appeal. “The judgment cannot be forgiven, because it gives advantage to a parent who took away the child first,” he said.

“It is hard to believe the high court respected the child’s will,” said the father’s lawyer, Akira Ueno.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/01/26/editorials/rules-handing-child/#.WIuEfbGZPVp

Rules on handing over a child

Court rulings ordering a divorced parent to hand over a child to his or her former spouse are often ignored — largely because there are no specific procedures under the law governing enforcement of such a custody transfer. A revision of the relevant law is imperative to ensure that court decisions on child custody are enforced. There are two important points for consideration — creating a clear rule for the compulsory enforcement of a court order by a legally empowered official, and imposing financial penalties on the parties defying court orders to get them to comply. Either way, due consideration should be paid to the welfare of the children, including the potential psychological damage from the procedure.

In the absence of a specific legal procedure for custody transfers between divorced parents, the Civil Execution Law’s provision on the transfer of movable property is currently referred to in enforcing a court ruling ordering a divorced parent to hand over a child to the other party. But it would not stand to reason to treat children as if they were “property.”

In the case of international marriages, the compulsory execution of a court order on a custody transfer is possible under the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, popularly known as the Hague Convention. As of November, 95 countries were parties to the convention, which Japan signed and ratified in 2014. A law setting domestic procedures needed to implement the convention has been enacted and put in force.

The law includes a detailed provision stating what an enforcement officer in charge of removing a child from a parent who abducted that child to Japan and handing that child over to the other parent should and should not do, including the need to try to persuade the abducting parent and asking for police assistance if necessary. The provision says an officer can use some form of power to restrain or make a parent who resists giving up the child comply, but prohibits the officer from using this power if it causes harmful effects on the child. The law says that if a court rules that a child must be moved back to his or her “state of habitual residence,” the parent who won the case can in principle ask for the decision to be executed by an enforcement officer after two weeks have passed. This rule leaves room for the disputing parents to agree on the transfer of the child in an amicable way without the involvement of an enforcement officer.

Last year, Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda asked the Legislative Council, an advisory body, to look into revising the Civil Execution Law to set down specific procedures to enforce court decisions ordering the handover of children between divorced parents. Based on its recommendation, the government is expected to submit a bill for the revision to the Diet as early as next year.

Setting down the relevant procedures makes sense given what is happening to divorced parents and their children. In 2015, there were 97 cases in which divorced parents with parental prerogatives or the care and custody right over their children asked that their former spouses turn the children over to them, but the children were handed over in only 27 of the cases, according to the Supreme Court.

Merely setting the procedures for a compulsory execution of the court order — which would involve an enforcement officer stepping in to physically remove a child from one parent and hand him over to the other — may be too rigid and may not serve the intended purpose of the amendment. The procedures should include an indirect approach that may seem lukewarm but will eventually lead to the transfer of a child. One option would be to fine a parent who refuses to comply with the court and, to encourage compliance, the size of the fine would rise as long as the parent keeps refusing to obey the order.

Priority should be placed on the indirect approach so that the child handover can take place in a more amicable manner. But a mechanism should also be included that will trigger a compulsory enforcement if, for example, it’s suspected that a parent ordered to give up the child is seeking to dodge the ruling by continuing to make the payments. The law to implement the Hague Convention says that the removal of a child must be carried out when the child is together with the parent who took him or her to Japan, out of consideration for the psychological effects on the child. The advisory council should take into account how to minimize the risk of trauma on children in executing court rulings.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170121/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

Husband ordered to pay wife 1 mil. yen each time he refuses child visitation rights

The Tokyo Family Court has granted a woman’s petition for her estranged husband to pay her 1 million yen each time he refuses her visitation rights to see their daughter, an extraordinarily high amount for such a case, it has been learned.

The woman — a foreign national — filed for an indirect compulsory execution with the court after her Japanese husband refused to allow her to see their eldest daughter once a month for five hours as granted by a court. An attorney representing the woman praised the ruling, calling it “an epoch-making decision.”

The husband, who has been living with the daughter since he was separated from his wife in 2011, has appealed the ruling to the Tokyo High Court, with his attorney saying, “The amount of money lacks common sense.”

According to the decision handed down by the Tokyo Family Court on Oct. 4 last year and other information, the husband — who is in the midst of divorce proceedings with his wife — withdrew their then 7-year-old daughter from her elementary school after he left the family’s home in 2011, and transferred the girl to another school. He withheld his new address from his wife, and the woman filed for visitation rights with the family court.

The husband dismissed the wife’s visitation request, saying, “There is a risk of my daughter being taken away to a foreign country,” by citing instances such as his wife locating and visiting their daughter’s new school, but the family court granted the wife monthly visitation rights in December 2015. The Tokyo High Court also upheld the ruling, finalizing the decision. However, the husband refused to follow the court decision, and the wife filed for an indirect compulsory execution of the order.

In handing down the Oct. 4, 2016 ruling, judge Tetsuo Tanahashi of the Tokyo Family Court said, “The husband has repeated the same argument for his refusal of visitation that has already been dismissed by the court. We can no longer expect him to comply with visitation voluntarily, and visitation rights need to be ensured through indirect compulsory execution.” The court decided to charge the husband 1 million yen per refusal of his wife’s visitation requests based on his income and other factors. The husband eventually complied with visitation request, allowing his wife to see their daughter for the first time in five years.

After the Supreme Court granted an indirect compulsory execution over a refusal of visitation rights in 2013, other courts followed suit, with the accused party charged around 50,000 yen to 100,000 yen per refusal. Still, some parents choose to pay to keep their estranged spouses from meeting their children.

Takao Tanase, a lawyer representing the wife, commented, “The court took a resolute attitude toward the husband’s disregard for the court decision, which ruled that the wife should be allowed to see their daughter for the sake of the child.”

Some experts have raised questions over the forcible execution of visitation rights through the power of money. An attorney for the husband said, “The husband couldn’t comply with visitation request out of fear of his daughter being abducted. The amount charged lacks common sense.”

Italian Case

January 22, 2017

Source:  http://www.kizuna-cpr.org/italian-case

An Italian Case

A case of an Italian citizen has occurred. He moved with his family from Europe to Japan.
Then, his two children were taken to Nagasaki. His court case begins on January 12, 2017.

日本語テキストは以下の通りです。

English translation, Japanese translation, and image of Italian news story below.

Online article:
http://www.lastampa.it/2017/01/06/italia/cronache/luomo-che-combatte-la-legge-nipponica-per-rivedere-i-suoi-figli-2xgHMN5GrE7ImR8M5RkswK/pagina.html

Page 12 | Top News | LA STAMPA Friday 6 January 2017

 

The man that fights Japanese law to see his children again

“My wife took them and the judicial system protects her”

 

 

People

FRANCESCA SFORZA

ROME

 

 

“My dad? I don’t know where he is, nor what he’s doing.” This is what lots of Japanese people are saying once they become adults; after the parents’ separation and divorce, they have no idea where their fathers have gone. But they haven’t been abandoned; it’s the law. Something may change though, and if this is the case, it would also be thanks to the battle of an Italian father, who is fighting to have his rights respected. In case of victory, he could contribute to revolutionize the Japanese Family Law System. In Japan, joint custody does not exist. If a couple divorces, the court will take over the decision of which of the parents will take custody. Apart from some very rare cases, the children end up staying with the mother. On top of this, too often custody ends up being assigned to the parent that takes away the children first, with the result that the other parent loses his rights in that very precise moment. The visitation rights belong to the children and not of the parent. In a culture where the fathers end up spending too much time at work, and the mothers have no interest in keeping the relationship with the in-laws, you can explain well the enormity of the numbers we’re looking at; at least 3 million Japanese children, in the last 20 years, have been raised without being able to see one of their parents.

 

“We have not divorced yet, but I don’t know anything about my children from last July, I couldn’t even say Happy Birthday for my daughter’s second birthday” says Pierluigi, who requested to stay anonymous to avoid creating problems while close to the hearing, that will take place in Nagasaki in mid-January. He, an Italian citizen, and his wife, Japanese, have moved to Tokyo from Germany, the country where their two children were born. “I decided to move here because I know well and love Japan since a long time ago, and I think their educational system is very good. I did it for my children.” However, shortly after relocating, he had been surrounded by his wife’s relatives, who informed him that in order to solve the usual couple-related problems it was necessary to live separately – “If you don’t agree we’ll call the police.” After this, she decided to move near Nagasaki with the children, the city where she is from. “Even though I know so many things about Japan – says Pierluigi – I had never heard about child abductions during marriages. We are still married, and I still have all the rights on my children, but since my wife took them first, if I tried to get them back they would arrest me.” No help even from the Police or the local social services; all of them agree that this is an injustice, but the fact that children cannot see one of their parents is not considered a crime or an abuse.

 

But Pierluigi doesn’t want to stay without his children: “Between us there’s a very strong bond, when we lived together the neighbors often told me “you’re like a mother to them” … I still have a very clear image of my 4 1/2-year-old son, one of the last times that his mother allowed me to see them; he came out of the house bare foot crying and begging me not to leave.” Together with his attorneys, Pierluigi has planned a strategy that is grabbing the attention not only of foreign nationals who lost access to their children, but also of many Japanese parents, who more and more feel this type of forced separation is a violent injustice perpetrated by the legal system. The fact that the Japanese judicial system considers custody-related matters after the end of a marriage as exclusively “private”, has delayed the signing of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (that took place only three years ago and has no retroactive effect). On top of it, this has increased the understanding that the children belong to the mothers and that the father’s role is not relevant in raising a child. “We are in Japan, why should the kids speak Italian” – Pierluigi’s mother-in-law said. Also, “What’s the problem if you don’t see them for one or two years? I raised three kids without my husband.”

 

Many international governments have already pressured Japan to end abductions, and several Japanese politicians are ready to cooperate in order to improve the situation. There are lots of things to plan carefully before the hearing: “You just need to act in the best interest of the children, as it’s specified in the interpretation of article 766 of the Civil Code.” You need knowledge, courage and passion. We ask him if at least he’s a bit angry: “It’s useless, if you enter a Japanese Court angry – he says – you have lost before even beginning.”

 

3 million – It’s the estimated number of children that were raised without seeing one of their parents in the last 20 years.

 

The parents – Victims of the forced separation are not only foreign nationals married with a Japanese person, but also many Japanese parents themselves.

 

The sequence of events

Pierluigi (the name is invented) and his wife, decide to move to Tokyo, the Japanese capital city, from Germany where they were living with the two children born during their marriage.

Shortly after relocating, the wife’s relatives inform Pierluigi that in order to solve the usual couple-related problems, the only solution is to live separately for some time. The woman moves with the two children to Nagasaki, where her family originates. In July, Pierluigi sees his children for the last time.

Pierluigi and his wife are still married, but according to the Japanese law, if he tried to get his children back he would be arrested. His is one of the many child abduction cases that in Japan are becoming more and more frequent.

In mid-January a Family Court will examine Pierluigi’s case. Many Japanese and foreign parents are awaiting this hearing with big hopes. His case could revolutionize the Family Law of Japan.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/04/17/issues/two-years-japan-signed-hague-children-returned-old-issues-remain/#.VyUeVGNlnVo

Two years after Japan signed Hague, children have been returned but old issues remain
BY COLIN P.A. JONES
APR 17, 2016

‘What brand of Champagne did you drink?”

The lawyer delivered the question with a dramatic flourish, and I suppose it was a reasonable question to ask, even if rhetorically. I was being cross-examined as an expert witness in a child custody-related trial in a Western courtroom. One parent wanted to relocate to Japan with the child, the other was objecting.

This was 2015. In a 2008 Japan Times column written about a rumor that Japan was preparing to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, I had declared: “I do not plan to crack open any Champagne until an abducted child is actually returned home.” The rumor proved wildly premature, but Japan ultimately ratified the convention, which, together with a package of baroque implementing laws and regulations, came into effect from April 2014.

The question about my Champagne preferences (Veuve Clicquot, by the way, if anyone is buying) was reasonable as a challenge to my reliability as an expert, yet was arguably irrelevant to the issue at bar: What could the court expect in terms of preserving the relationship between the child and the left-behind parent after the other parent and their child relocated to Japan? Unfortunately, “Not very much” may still be the answer.

But first, credit where it is due: In the two years since Japan signed the convention, more children abducted to or unlawfully retained in Japan have been returned to their home countries than at any time in the past. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s “central authority” for convention purposes, has handled almost 200 applications for assistance, and returns have been achieved in both directions (see table).

The Foreign Ministry has put significant effort into implementing the treaty and performing its central authority role. (A ministry representative also kindly responded to my inquiries in connection with this column.) It has sought to deter abductions through awareness programs, as well as foster amicable resolutions to abduction and visitation disputes by supporting mediation programs specifically designed for convention cases. (I am a mediator for one of them.) It also provides financial assistance for the translation of court documents and has set up a special online system (named Mimamori) for supervised cross-border “virtual visitation.”

Amicable resolutions are great, but there is not always much amity left between parents when one of them unilaterally spirits the children away to another country. Sometimes fear of abuse is a factor, but not always. Sometimes it is not; sometimes the taking parent is just trying to erase the other parent from his or her life, which necessitates erasure from the children’s lives as well. Having spent over a decade watching countless cases like these transpire, I believe that intentionally denying a parent — a former spouse, or life partner at that — a loving relationship with his or her child may be the worst thing one human being can do to another, short of physical violence. It is rarely good for the child, either.

The Hague Convention makes this harder by requiring that children taken or retained across borders in violation of custody rights be returned to their home country (where the other parent is typically also resident). Returns are the rule, but there are exceptions. One of these is if the child is living in Japan with the consent of the other parent. Disputes over relocation during or after divorce also being common, a child may also end up living in Japan with one parent through the permission of a foreign court.

When Japan was not a convention signatory, it was a red flag to foreign judges whenever a parent sought leave to take the children to Japan, whether to visit or live. “Just taking the kids back for the summer to see Grandma” and then staying is a pretty common abduction scenario everywhere (with Grandma sometimes playing a role in persuading the parent to stay). In Japan it was almost always a successful strategy — one that would frustrate whatever a judge in the country of origin might have decided about the child custody arrangements. Now, this type of “abduction by retention” should result in a Japanese court issuing a return order.

With Japan having joined the treaty, parents and foreign judges alike may now feel more secure about the idea of a child being brought here to live. Yet if that happens with the consent of the other parent or permission of a foreign court, a return order will then be difficult — if not impossible — to obtain. While judges in American states may be accustomed to retaining jurisdiction over children taken to another state and being able to enforce their rulings on custody, this probably won’t work with a child taken to Japan; if the scenario does not constitute an “abduction,” parents will likely be left to seek relief in Japanese family courts outside the convention framework, and they should lower their expectations accordingly.

Judges still finding their way

First, conversations with lawyers indicate that even in abduction cases that clearly fall under the convention, the Osaka and Tokyo family courts charged with resolving them are still figuring things out. Family court judges are likely accustomed to resolving domestic cases without being constrained by the rules of evidence and procedure that should apply in Hague cases.

At the same time, however, such cases are supposed to be resolved more expeditiously, despite involving complex issues such as the interpretation of foreign law: What do “rights of custody” mean in Country X, for example? (There is an international network of “Hague judges” in which Japanese judges participate, but apparently not to the extent of using it as an informal source of information on foreign law and practice in specific cases.) Similarly, which party has the burden of proving what — a parent’s consent, for example? And what if a parent or foreign court’s permission to relocate to Japan with a child is based on the relocating parent’s promise of cooperation with visitation — a promise that is immediately broken after getting off the plane?

Some of my lawyer interlocutors complain about a lack of procedural clarity. Perhaps this is a matter of time and more cases will resolve these issues.

Mixed messages on visitation

Second, visitation in Japan remains patchy and difficult to enforce. The convention provides for facilitation of cross-border access (aka visitation) but with limited substance. While the Foreign Ministry offers support, it is just that — support, such as contacting the other parent and offering online visitation and mediation. Such support has reportedly resulted in visitation in some cases, and even led to a few instances of children being returned.

If cooperation is not forthcoming, however, the parent seeking visitation is left seeking recourse in family courts, pretty much like everyone else. Here the stories I hear seem have not changed dramatically: parents going for months without seeing their children, mediation sessions where nothing seems to happen, judges who seem unduly solicitous of parents engaging in alienating behavior, and courts making decisions based on expediency rather than the best interests of children.

There are some signs of changes: Courts seem to be awarding visitation more, and I hear more about overnight stays, though recent judicial statistics show them occurring in less than 10 percent of cases. Also, in a December 2014 decision, the Fukuoka Family Court transferred legal custody of a child from mother to father due to the former’s obstruction of visitation. Only last month, the Matsudo branch of the Chiba Family Court ordered a mother to hand over her daughter to the father after years of blocking contact between the two. Japanese family court professionals have long written about the “good parent rule” — giving custody to whichever is more understanding of visitation with the other — as a remedy for such intransigence, but these are the first instances I have seen of it actually being applied.

Yet such developments should be treated with caution. Seemingly revolutionary decisions have to survive appeals and be enforced to be truly meaningful. In the Fukuoka case, only legal custody was transferred, something that can be accomplished simply by filing the judgment with the family registry; it does not automatically equate with the father getting contact, only the mother needing to seek his cooperation to take legal acts like applying for a passport on their child’s behalf.

As for the other case, branch family courts have long been the dumping ground for judges disfavored by the judicial hierarchy, meaning the Chiba case could be an anomaly as much as a harbinger of true change. Even the family courts’ increased acceptance of visitation seems to be tied to growing use of supervised visitation through NPOs staffed by (surprise!) retired family court personnel. In other countries supervised visitation is limited to cases where a parent is abusive or potentially dangerous; in Japan it seems to be becoming the easy-to-award/recommend default solution for when the custodial parent is intransigent.

Visitation thus still seems to be driven by what the custodial parent can be convinced to agree to, rather than what might be meaningful for the child. The Foreign Ministry’s Mimamori online supervised visitation system seems to be an extension of this logic: that any contact is better than none, and might lead to something more meaningful (which is sometimes the case). Understandably, some parents who have done no wrong yet are expected to accept being treated like criminals in order to interact with their own children find this abhorrent.

Lack of enforcement — and details

Third, an order from a Japanese court to return a child, whether across the street or to another country, can often still be frustrated by a parent simply refusing to comply, or getting the child to refuse. This is said to have already been an issue in convention cases, which should not surprise anyone: Before the treaty came into force, the nation’s shikkōkan — the bailiffs who enforce civil judgments — announced that it would likely be impossible to enforce return orders without the child’s cooperation. While the process of implementing the Hague Convention has brought some clarity to the theory and practice of enforcing returns, without sanctions for contempt (which Japanese judges lack in these cases) or other police-like powers to back them up, court orders can end up being meaningless pieces of paper.

Fourth, and finally, after two years and a number of cases, the workings of Japan’s Hague courts remain invisible. No judgments have been published, nor do there appear to be any statistics available on case resolutions. There is no way for outsiders to know how Japanese courts are deciding whether or not to return children.

At least I can drink some Champagne (Moet & Chandon is fine too): Japan did join the convention, and lawyers tell me it is having a real effect in deterring abductions. Yet it shouldn’t be forgotten that the convention’s potential remains limited by the constraints of the Japanese family justice system as a whole. Describing those requires more words than a single column allows, so keep watching this space.

Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. The views expressed are those of the author alone. Law of the Land appears on the second Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

(April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2016) APPLICATIONS FOR HELP WITH RETURNS APPLICATIONS FOR HELP WITH VISITATION
APPLICATIONS TO MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS RELATING TO CHILDREN IN JAPAN (AND THE FOREIGN COUNTRY INVOLVED)
U.S. 11
France 4
Australia 4
Germany 3
Canada 2
U.K. 2
Singapore 1
Italy 1
Spain 1
Russia 1
Switzerland 1
Belgium 1
Sri Lanka 1
Turkey 1
Fiji 1
Colombia 1
South Korea 1
U.S. 39
U.K. 6
France 5
Australia 4
Canada 4
New Zealand 3
Singapore 3
Mexico 2
Germany 1
Costa Rica 1
Subtotal 37
Rejected* 8
Total 45
Subtotal 68
Rejected* 7
Total 75
APPLICATIONS TO MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS RELATING TO CHILDREN IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
Thailand 6
Russia 4
Brazil 4
South Korea 3
U.S. 3
Germany 2
Canada 2
France 1
U.K. 1
Italy 1
Spain 1
Switzerland 1
Slovakia 1
South Africa 1
Peru 1
Romania 1
Sri Lanka 1
Belarus 1
Sweden 1
U.S. 5
Russia 3
Canada 3
Germany 2
Ukraine 2
Thailand 2
Australia 1
South Korea 1
Uruguay 1
Netherlands 1
Poland 1
Hong Kong 1
Subtotal 36
Rejected applications* 3
Total 39
Total 23
TOTAL APPLICATIONS 84 98**
STATISTICS IN TABLE COURTESY OF MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

NOTES

* Applications for assistance may be rejected by the Foreign Ministry because they do not satisfy requirements for assistance (e.g., the requesting parent is unable to demonstrate rights of custody or visitation). In some instances, rejections reflect the fact that the taking parent has already returned with the child voluntarily, rendering the application moot.

** The far greater number of requests for visitation assistance for children in Japan in part reflects the fact that Japan allowed applications for assistance with visitation with children in Japan even in cases pre-dating the Hague Convention’s coming into force.

RETURNS

• The data regarding returns reflects applications to the Foreign Ministry for assistance in achieving the return of a child either in Japan or in a foreign country, which in the first instance involves encouraging the taking parent to return voluntarily or to mediate with the other parent. Accordingly, only some of these cases are ultimately resolved through court.

• According to the ministry, 14 children were returned from Japan, through mediation or other voluntary arrangements, alternative dispute resolution or court orders, and nine children were returned to Japan.

• These figures do not include some voluntary returns in cases where the Foreign Ministry was not formally involved.

• Three returns from Japan and one to Japan reportedly resulted from the visitation assistance process rather than the return process.

Washington Square Institute

Family Law and Family Forensics
Training Program

An Innovative Interdisciplinary Program
for Attorneys, Judges,
and Mental Health Professionals

Invites you to attend

The Loss of a Parent to the Child
And the Loss of the Child to the Parent:
Investigation of Relocation,
Parental Alienation, and Parental Child Abduction

Friday Feb. 26, 2016, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Washington Square Institute
41 E. 11th St. (between Broadway and University Pl), 4th Fl., NYC

Conference Fee: $150*
Full-time students with school ID: $75
*(Limited number of partial scholarships available – please email Linda Gunsberg for further information, lindagunsberg@yahoo.com )

PRESENTATIONS

Relocation
Philip Stahl, PhD, ABPP
Complexities of Relocation in Separation and Divorce
Relocation cases are among the most difficult in family law. This presentation will focus on both risk and protective factors, as well the limited research available regarding relocation. Dr. Stahl will also address how Courts, mediators, evaluators, consultants, and attorneys can work together to help parents solve difficult problems regarding relocation.

Hon. Helen Sturm
Relocation from the Judicial Perspective
This presentation will begin with a brief summary of the Tropea case, which sets forth the factors that are to be considered in New York State relocation cases. Judge Sturm will then discuss two cases she decided, one an application by a parent to relocate to Texas with 2 young children, and the other an application to relocate to Australia with an infant.

Parental Alienation
Linda Gunsberg, PhD
Parental Alienation: Clinical Issues
It is essential for psychotherapists of children, adolescents and adults to understand both the parental influences and the child/adolescent contributions to the destructive phenomenon referred to as Parental Alienation. Therapists who work with adults need to be familiar with how a mother or father may be fostering or stimulating alienation of the child from the other parent. The adult patient may be the alienating parent or the alienated parent. Dr. Gunsberg will discuss techniques that can help therapists elicit information about the parent’s contribution to Parental Alienation, as well as treatment and psychoeducational interventions that are useful in Parental Alienation cases.

Melissa Fenton, MBA
Resilience in the Face of Parental Alienation
This presentation will focus on Ms. Fenton’s experience of being an alienated parent, and the knowledge she has gained of the New York City Family Court System and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act laws (UCCJEA).

Parental Child Abduction
Colin Jones, JD, LLM
Family Law for Whom? Why Japan is Different
This talk about Japanese family law will likely challenge some basic Western assumptions about the role of law and courts in family-related matters, and will offer a better understanding of the problems of child abduction in Japan.

Samuel Lui, JD
Dead Dad Walking: Moving on in Life without Your Child Who Depended
on You
Child abduction coupled with parental alienation is one of the worst kinds of domestic violence against both the child and the left-behind parent. The left-behind parent continues to think and care about his child, but there is nothing he can do. He never gets any news about the welfare of his child, causing continuous anxiety. Other people are expecting him to function and work on a regular basis like a normal person. However, the trauma of losing his child lingers in his mind. He is like a man whose purpose in life has been stolen from him. Mr. Lui will share what it is like to live like this for the past 16 years.

Brian Prager, MA
Erasure of the Father: Coercive Practices, Corrosive Effects in Japanese International Parental Child Abduction
Erasure of the father, the expulsion of a caregiving natural parent from the lives of young children, is epidemic in Japan. Today, roughly three million children in Japan have meager-to-no contact with one parent after divorce, due to the absence of parental rights and protection of the parent-child relationship in family law. This induces parental child abduction, and also the disappearance of parents who despair the loss of the close bonds they previously had with their children. Mr. Prager will highlight factors contributing to the devastation and bereavement suffered by overmatched parents who lose their children to parental abduction in an unresponsive institutional environment.

Ellen B. Holtzman, JD Moderator

Conference educational objectives
Be able to define and describe relocation, parental alienation, and parental child abduction in nuanced legal and psychological terms
Understand the specific losses in the parent – child relationship as a result of relocation, parental alienation, and parental child abduction
Become knowledgeable regarding the legal, treatment, and psychoeducational options available to families facing relocation, parental alienation, and parental child abduction

Schedule

8:30-9:00am Registration & Continental Breakfast
9:00-9:15am Introductory Remarks – Linda Gunsberg
9:15-10:30am Complexities of Relocation in Separation and Divorce – Philip Stahl
10:30-11:00am Relocation from the Judicial Perspective – Hon. Helen Sturm
11:00-11:15am Q & A
11:15-11:30am Stretch Break
11:30-12:30pm Parental Alienation: Clinical Issues – Linda Gunsberg
12:30-1:00pm Resilience in the Face of Parental Alienation – Melissa Fenton
1:00-1:15pm Q & A
1:15-2:15pm Lunch (on your own)
2:15-3:15pm Family Law for Whom? Why Japan is Different – Colin Jones
3:15-3:45pm Dead Dad Walking: Moving on in Life without Your Child Who Depended on You – Samuel Lui
3:45-4:15pm Erasure of the Father: Coercive Practices, Corrosive Effects in Japanese International Parental Child Abduction – Brian Prager
4:15-5:00pm Q&A amongst Panelists, and open discussion

Bios of Presenters

Philip Stahl is a forensic psychologist in private practice, living in Maricopa County, Arizona. His current area of specialty is relocation cases, including complex international relocations . He provides consultation and expert witness testimony in child custody litigation throughout the United States, and conducts child custody evaluations. His teaching includes trainings throughout the United States and internationally for attorneys, child custody evaluators, and judges. He is on the faculty of the National Judicial College, is a Specialist Provider in Family Law for the California State Bar, and is Adjunct Faculty at Arizona Summit Law School (Phoenix). Dr. Stahl is an Invited Speaker at the Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program, Washington Square Institute. Dr. Stahl has written extensively in the area of high conflict divorce for over 25 years. His latest works are: Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony (2013); Emerging Issues in Relocation Cases (2014); and Analysis in Child Custody Evaluation Reports: A Crucial Component (2014). Dr. Stahl’s child custody evaluation was cited by the California Supreme Court in its landmark decision modifying 8 years of relocation case law following Burgess (In re Marriage of LaMusga (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1072, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 356, 88 P.3d 81).

Judge Sturm received her JD, with Honors, from Brooklyn Law School in 1976, and began her career in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. In 1983, Judge Sturm relocated to New Mexico where she was Chief of the Medicaid Fraud Unit in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. In 1988, Judge Sturm returned to New York and to the District Attorney’s Office where she remained until she was appointed to the bench in 1999. During the years she served as an Assistant District Attorney, Judge Sturm was the Bureau Chief of the Juvenile Crimes Bureau, created the first Child Abuse Unit, and tried numerous homicide and related cases. As a judge, she was assigned to Family Court where she presided over thousands of custody, visitation and family offense matters. Judge Sturm is currently the Administrative and Compliance Manager for the Mt. Sinai Hospital Adolescent Health Care Unit, maintains a private practice in Divorce Mediation and Consultation, and is an Administrative Law Judge with the New York State Comptroller’s Office where she hears and determines matters relating to pension entitlements.

Linda Gunsberg is Chair of the Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program at Washington Square Institute. She created this program almost 20 years ago, with the goal of training mental health professionals, attorneys for children, matrimonial attorneys, and judges from an interdisciplinary perspective. Within family litigation, Dr. Gunsberg has served as a forensic expert on issues such as divorce, child custody and parenting plans, grandparents rights, relocation, parental alienation, parental child abduction, child abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional), battered woman syndrome and domestic violence, Hague Convention cases, and adoption. She works within the United States and internationally. Dr. Gunsberg conducts and supervises forensic evaluations, consults with attorneys for children regarding child interviews, is a trial consultant to legal teams (domestic and international) and conducts work product reviews of child custody evaluations. She also is a parent coordinator, parent – child facilitator, and facilitator for a support group for alienated parents. Dr. Gunsberg was past Clinical and Research Director for Take Root, the only organization in the United States for adults who were parentally abducted as children. She is Co-Chair since 1999 of the Psychoanalysis and Law Discussion Group of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Dr. Gunsberg has co-edited and written chapters in the volumes, A Handbook of Divorce and Custody: Forensic, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives (2005), and Fathers and Their Families (1989). She has co-edited and contributed to the monographs for Psychoanalytic Inquiry, The Psychoanalyst in the Courtroom (2009), and The Adoption Journey (2010). She has lectured on numerous forensic topics, most recently the best interests of the child, parental alienation, factors critical to the child/adolescent’s paradoxical preference to live with the batterer in child custody cases, and complex issues regarding overnights for infants and toddlers. Dr. Gunsberg is also in private practice where she sees children of all ages, and adults. She feels very fortunate that her work as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst is informed by forensic issues.

Melissa Fenton is a Fundraising, Event and Communications consultant within non-profit and corporate sectors. She has served as the Chief Development and Communications Officer and interim Chief Financial Officer with charter schools; and a Principal Strategy Consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, assisting Fortune 500 companies and higher education. She was the Executive Director of City Lights Youth Theatre, a non-profit organization that offers after-school, in-school and summer theater classes and productions to young people in New York City, ages 3-19. She has produced several theater based discussions on topics facing youth such as gun and school violence, persecution for sexual orientation, and the challenges of assimilation after immigration. Ms. Fenton has worked in the Frauds Bureau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as a trial preparation assistant, dealing with white collar crime, sex crimes and racketeering cases.

Colin Jones is Professor of Law, Doshisha Law School, Kyoto, Japan. He is author of the book, The Child Abduction Problem: How the Japanese legal system tears parents and children apart ( 2011). He also has written the following academic articles: 19th century rules over 21st reality – legal parentage under Japanese law, Family Law Quarterly (2015); Will the child abduction treaty become more “Asian”? A first look at the efforts of Singapore and Japan to implement the Hague Convention, Denver Journal of International Law & Policy (2014); No more excuses: Why recent penal code amendments should (but probably won’t) stop international parental child abduction to Japan, Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy (2007); and, In the Best Interests of the Court: What American lawyers need to know about child custody and visitation in Japan, Asia-Pacific Law and Policy Journal (2007).

Sam Lui has a B.A. in Japanese Language and Literature from University of California, Irvine and his J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law. He is currently working for Manhattan Legal Services as an attorney in the areas of family and immigration law.

Brian Prager has an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and Education from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Left-Behind-Parent whose young son disappeared into Japan in a scripted, pre-meditated parental abduction in June, 2010. He participated in the United States Department of State Town Hall Meetings in 2011 and 2012 on Japanese International Parental Child Abduction (JIPCA). Mr. Prager submitted testimony to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2011 regarding International Child Abduction. He also has been a participant in left-behind-parent organizations such as Bring Abducted Children Home (BAC-HOME) and Kizuna – Child Parent Reunion (Kizuna-CPR). Presently, he teaches at the City University of New York.

Ellen B. Holtzman concentrates her practice in domestic relations and has represented clients in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including parental alienation, relocation and parental child abduction. Recently she was successful as the lead attorney in a Hague Convention case, and the decision was upheld on appeal. Ms. Holtzman has frequently lectured at Continuing Legal Education programs on Representing Domestic Violence Victims in Matrimonial Actions. For the Center for Safety and Change, she also educates attorneys in the techniques of representing battered women in divorce proceedings. Ms. Holtzman was a panelist at the American Psychoanalytic Association on The Intersection between Legal, Psychological and Judicial Concepts of Best Interests of the Child’ (2012), and a panelist at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis on Where are We Now Regarding the Best Interests of the Child Standard? – The Interface between Legal, Judicial and Psychoanalytic Perspectives (2013). Ms. Holtzman is a past President of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) and is presently President of the Women’s Bar Foundation of WBASNY. She is the 2007 recipient of the Association’s Joan E. Ellenbogen Founder’s Award and she was honored by the Rockland County Women’s Bar Association with the Belle Mayer Zeck Award . She is Director of Legal Training at the Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program, Washington Square Institute.

Registration

Please register no later than February 10, 2016 since seating capacity is limited

You can download the registration form here.
Registration is by check only, payable to Washington Square Institute. Mail your check with the registration form to:
Linda Gunsberg, PhD
130 W. 56th St. (Fl. 2)
New York, NY 10019

Refund & Cancellation Policy
Full refund of registration fee will be granted if cancellation request is prior to February 19, 2016. No refunds for no-shows on the day of the conference.

Continuing Education Credits: 6.5 hrs
Washington Square Institute for Psychotherapy & Mental Health is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (#0269). 
WSI is approved by the APA (American Psychological Association) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.
Application has been submitted and is pending for CLE credits for lawyers (6.5 hrs-skills)

For further information please contact:
Linda Gunsberg, Ph.D.
Chair, Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program
Washington Square Institute
Call: (212) 246-5506 or Email: lindagunsberg@yahoo.com

Copyright © 20XX. All Rights Reserved.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201510270089

U.S. official calls for direct meetings between parents, children ‘abducted’ to Japan

October 27, 2015

By TAKASHI OSHIMA/ Correspondent

A senior U.S. official called on Tokyo to give American parents “direct, in-person contact” with their children living in Japan during custody battles with Japanese parents under a child abduction treaty.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karen Christensen called for such one-on-one meetings in referring to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which stipulates what member nations should do when mothers or fathers take away their offspring without the consent of their spouses.

“We believe that the Japanese central authority really does take its responsibilities in the Hague Convention very seriously,” Christensen said in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo.

“When we say ‘meaningful access,’ in the end we mean direct contact and unsupervised contact,” Christensen said. “We have not yet seen that kind of direct, in-person contact that we’re looking for. We would like to see this happen quickly.”

According to Washington, more than 30 Americans have requested meetings with their children living in Japan since Tokyo joined the Hague Convention in 2014.

Although some of the U.S. parents have talked to their children in Japan through video conferences or met them in the presence of observers, no in-person, unmonitored contact has been provided so far.

According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Japanese parents concerned about the risks of unmonitored meetings with their children have requested that such meetings be done through video conferences or under supervision.

“We will continue our proper support based on laws to realizing person-to-person contact,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

By TAKASHI OSHIMA/ Correspondent

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/26/national/crime-legal/custody-case-test-japan-says-u-s-father-seeking-access-girl-held-grandmother/#.VjFsDkI-DVo

Custody case a test for Japan, says U.S. father seeking access to girl held by grandmother

BY 

STAFF WRITER

A U.S. man seeking access to his daughter said Monday that the case is an opportunity for Japan to prove to the world it no longer tolerates parental child abduction.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for denying access to his 13-year-old daughter.

His former wife left with the child in 2003, at the age of 9 months, after their marriage failed. The woman committed suicide four years later.

Toland said his situation would amount to a “felony crime” in other countries with up-to-date family laws.

“In Japan, this abduction by a nonparent is not only accepted, but it is condoned. I’m the only parent in the world to (my daughter),” Toland said, who is in Japan for the first time since the trial at the Tokyo Family Court kicked off in July.

Toland said if the case is resolved it would demonstrate to the world that Japan is turning over a new leaf after years of notoriety as a “safe haven” for parental child abduction. If his daughter is not returned to him, he said, it will only alienate the nation further.

Japan joined The Hague Convention on cross-border parental child kidnapping in 2014. The pact does not apply in Toland’s case because the abduction was within Japan — Toland’s family was based in Yokohama at the time. In addition to this, the convention cannot be applied retroactively.

“How can we expect Japan to ever resolve more complicated divorce, child custody issues if it cannot even resolve this very straightforward case, which does not involve divorce and where one parent is deceased and the nonparent is withholding a child above the parent who wants to care for her?” he said.

The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

Given that the separation occurred when the girl was a baby, this suggests that her attitude was learned from others and that she is under a misapprehension of what her father is really like, Ueno said.

“In cases this like, Japanese courts have immaturely decided that children shouldn’t be returned to parents, oblivious to the fact that they’re bound to suffer once becoming adults,” Ueno said.