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.

 | 

DEALING WITH DIVORCE

Japan may empower courts to handle more cross-border divorce suits

BY 

STAFF WRITER

After 18 months of deliberations, the Legislative Council of the Justice Ministry has drawn up an outline for legal revisions aimed at resolving a problem many failed marriages face: whether the Japan-based spouse can file for divorce here rather than overseas.

The council on Friday submitted a proposal to Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki that lists several scenarios in which Japanese family courts should be authorized to handle divorce involving couples of whom only one partner is still living in Japan.

If enacted, it would will mark the first time the government has clarified international jurisdiction rules for divorce.

Following are questions and answers on the issue:

What is the current situation?

Japan has no law that spells out the circumstances under which family courts can handle cross-border divorce disputes between a spouse who sues, the plaintiff, and his or her ex-partner, the defendant.

In the absence of a legal framework, family courts have traditionally decided on a case-by-case basis whether they have jurisdiction in divorce cases, relying only on past Supreme Court rulings.

The rulings acknowledged jurisdiction of the Japanese courts when the defendant was resident in Japan, because the inconvenience of being forced into a legal battle, it was deemed, merited greater consideration than the inconvenience faced by a plaintiff. If the defendant was overseas, that was where the case should be heard.

The-case-by-case approach means there has been no consistency in court judgments, while plaintiffs and their lawyers have had to convince the courts that they meet the special circumstances required to sue for divorce in Japan.

The lack of clear rules has placed prospective plaintiffs under emotional stress as they await a court’s decision on where their suits should take place, said Tokyo-based lawyer Tomohiro Hayase.

Under what circumstances have spouses been able to file for divorce in Japan?

A plaintiff in Japan who fled an allegedly abusive marriage abroad may qualify to have a family court hear the case because unconditionally prioritizing the whereabouts of the defendant can incur problems, Hayase said.

“For example, in cases where a Japanese wife has fled her abusive foreign husband and moved back to Japan, it would be unfair if she has to return to the husband’s country to start divorce (proceedings) against him,” the lawyer said.

Under such circumstances, domestic family courts have customarily decided they will handle the plaintiffs’ cases in Japan — even if the defendants are abroad — in accordance with what the top court called “the idea of fairness between the parties and just and speedy hearing of the case.”

What new rules are being considered?

The Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the justice minister, has come up with seven scenarios under which domestic family courts would preside over cross-border divorces in Japan, including those in which both parties are Japanese nationals.

Other cases include those in which a couple lived in Japan until just before they were separated internationally — a rule Hayase said will make it easier for Japanese to initiate a divorce action against a spouse who left Japan. While this will be a common scenario, the nationality is in fact irrelevant: It could involve two Americans, one of whom continues to reside in Japan and initiates the action.

Until now it has been hard for a Japanese husband, for example, to file for divorce if his foreign wife deserts him, leaves the country and does not inform him where she is. This is because regardless of any culpability the residence of the wife — the defendant in this case — took priority.

The husband would traditionally have to go through reams of paperwork to persuade a family court that he is not to blame for a failed marriage to win jurisdiction over his case. But the new rule, if realized, will grant him the right to initiate proceedings in Japan merely on the grounds that he shared a Japanese address with her before they separated.

“Although beneficial to Japanese, the rule is likely to prove more of an inconvenience to foreigners who left Japan for whatever reason, because unlike before, under the new rule it would be possible to drag them into a court battle in Japan from abroad — even though they are the defendants,” Hayase said.

What will change if the rules are enacted?

The council said the rules will “improve the foreseeability of litigants” and “contribute to swiftly resolving conflicts.”

Hayase agrees. “Whenever clients who sought an international divorce came to us for consultation, we weren’t able to tell them for sure beforehand whether they could proceed with a lawsuit in Japan. All we could do was study past court rulings and do some guesswork,” he said, noting most of his Japanese clients preferred to file for divorce in Japan to avoid the hassle of dealing with a foreign language and having to fly overseas.

“If more precise determinations are possible, that would be a huge load off their shoulders.”

What else does the outline cover?

Subject to the council’s discussion was not only jurisdiction over divorces but also child custody rulings.

Family courts have customarily claimed jurisdiction over cross-border custody battles if the child is in Japan. The proposed rule by the council endorses this tradition, declaring that Japanese courts are authorized to handle such cases when “the child has an address in or is staying in Japan.”

However, should the child be repatriated abroad in the midst of a custody battle, such as one under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Japanese courts are likely to have to terminate the debate and relinquish jurisdiction to their overseas counterparts, said Muneki Uchino, councilor of the Civil Affairs Bureau at the Justice Ministry.

Uchino said the Justice Ministry will compile an amendment based on the outline and submit it to the Diet “as soon as possible,” at the latest by early next year.

How many international marriages take place in Japan?

There were 21,130 new international marriages registered in Japan in 2014, according to data released by the welfare ministry in September.

Of the total, 14,998 couples were those between Japanese husbands and foreign wives, mostly Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos. The remaining 6,132 were of Japanese wives, with the foreign husbands predominantly Americans and Koreans.

There were 14,135 international divorces in 2014.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/10/national/crime-legal/u-s-father-seeking-access-to-daughter-blasts-japans-family-courts/

JAPAN TIMES

July 10, 2015

/

U.S. father seeking access to daughter blasts Japan’s family courts

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Seeking to regain custody of a daughter he hasn’t seen in years, an American father called on the Tokyo Family Court on Thursday to stop “endorsing child abduction” by parents and demonstrate that it is capable of prioritizing the best interests of children.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for refusing to let him see his 12-year-old daughter ever since the wife committed suicide in 2007 after taking away the child four years earlier due to a failed marriage.

Japan joined the Hague Convention on cross-border parental child kidnapping in 2014. But since the abduction was not cross-border — Toland’s family was based in Yokohama at the time it occurred — his case is not covered by the pact, which also doesn’t work retroactively.

Aside from getting back his child, Toland characterized his lawsuit as a challenge against the entrenched tendency by Japanese family courts to disregard the right of left-behind parents, a tendency that he claimed is tantamount to “endorsing child abduction” between parents.

“The current situation in Japan, where (my daughter) is shut off from her only parent and held by a third-party non-parent, would be inconceivable in the rest of the world,” Toland said in prerecorded video footage played by his lawyer Akira Ueno after the trial. “I sincerely hope the Japanese courts will recognize the universal right of parents, and do the right thing in this case.”

Lawyers representing Toland’s mother-in-law were not available for immediate comment on Friday.

During the trial, Toland was quoted by Ueno as saying his wish to see his abducted daughter “once a week” was met with laughter by a family court arbitrator, indicating that such a request was far beyond reach for a non-custodial parent. Toland himself couldn’t make it to the trial as he is now in the United States.

After his daughter was taken by his ex-wife in July 2003, Toland claims he has only been able to see her on a couple of occasions, with his attempts to communicate with her “flat-out rejected” by his mother-in-law.

“Customarily speaking, Japanese family courts are notorious for being overwhelmingly inclined to give custody to parents who took away their children first,” Ueno said.

Underlying such a tendency, he said, is the fact that family courts lack the understanding that children are better off being granted access to both parents after divorce.

FEB2015ACCJARTICLE

For PDF of full issue, download from: http://www.accjjournal.com/
FEBRUARY 2015 • ACCJ JOURNAL

NEW RULES ON CHILD ABDUCTION
Tokyo handles first cases under newly ratified Hague convention

It took time and the application of a degree of pressure—both international and domestic—for Japan’s Diet to approve the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which finally went into effect on April 1, 2014. So far, diplomats, lawyers, and children’s rights activists have broadly applauded the efforts of the Japanese authorities to accede to the spirit of the agreement, pointing out a number of cases in which the pact has been enforced.

They warn, however, that the legislation has been in place for less than a year, and that Japan’s courts have yet to become deeply involved in cases that, all sides agree, are complicated and replete with emotional aspects.
“It’s too early to tell yet,” Steven Maloney, consul general at the US Embassy in Tokyo, told the ACCJ Journal.
“The Japanese government has done a lot of things very well; they have enacted the legislation, set up an office in the foreign ministry, as well as assembled judges, social workers, and lawyers with diverse skills and the ability to do the job properly, and we’re very happy with that. “But how the courts react remains to be seen,” he added.

Before last April, Japan was the only G-8 nation not to have ratified this Hague convention, which generally stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent and without the consent of the other parent.

With ever more international marriages—estimated at 40,000 a year in Japan—ending in separation or divorce, pressure from around the world has been building for Tokyo to enact relevant legislation.

In recent years, embassies in Tokyo were handling around 400 cases annually in which the Japanese parent had violated the terms of the convention. But previously, international authorities had been powerless to act once the child was in Japan.

At present, the US Embassy in Tokyo is dealing with close to 100 cases. “Each [case] is very complicated, and many involve more than one child,” Maloney said. Thirty-one applications for access to US citizen children and two cases for return are currently being handled by the Japanese authorities, and Maloney believes the Japanese authorities deserve credit for that.

“Clearly the government here is treating the issue very seriously, they are acting professionally, they are carrying out training, and they are not stonewalling, but we will know a great deal more in three months from now,” he added.

Jury still out

Concern revolves around an article in the convention that identifies “grave risk” to the physical well-being of the child at the center of a dispute as being grounds for a judge to refuse to sanction the child being returned to his or her country of habitual residence. Critics say that Japanese parents who have abducted a child are aware of this loophole and that they are likely to use it—whether or not there was any physical abuse in the past—to keep the child in Japan.

“If the article is interpreted in Japan as it is interpreted elsewhere, then we do not believe there are any loopholes,” Maloney said.

Taeko Mizuno Tada, a Tokyo-based lawyer with the firm Nagahama, Mizuno & Inoue, has handled international family cases for many years. She says the law was changed largely as a result of pressure from foreign governments.
“I believe the Japanese government agreed to ratify the convention because of overseas pressure, especially from the US government,” Mizuno said. “Over the past 20 years, amendments to the Civil Code related to family matters have been very slow and controversial in Japan.

“But as some children have been returned to Japan from other countries since April 1, we now understand that the Hague convention can be beneficial to Japanese and other residents of Japan as well,” she added.
Without external encouragement, Mizuno believes, it could have taken another 30 years for Japan to sign the Hague pact. But she agrees that the authorities here are taking their new obligations seriously.

“The Japanese foreign ministry has hired many good people to handle Hague convention issues,” she said. “And Japanese courts and the bar association have had a lot of education and training courses for Hague cases.”

Parents still suffering

However, foreign nationals who have been separated from their children for many years say Japan’s failure to ratify the convention earlier condemned them to years without their children, and that they still may never have the right to see their kids again.

“The benefits of Japan signing the convention only apply to cases where the children are under 16 years of age,” said Walter Benda, of Virginia, who has seen his two daughters just once in 20 years.

“Furthermore the Hague convention is not retroactive, so cases such as mine, which occurred in the past, and in which the children are already 16 or older, are not covered under any of the provisions of this treaty,” Benda added. He is joint founder of the Japan chapter of the US-based Children’s Rights Council.

Benda’s wife disappeared with the girls after seeing him off to work one morning from their home in Chiba Prefecture, and she rebuffed all his efforts to make contact with them. As soon as he did find them again, they vanished once more. The only time he has seen them was for a few moments on a street in a Japanese town in 1998, after a private investigator managed to track down the girls and their mother.

The problem was overlooked for many years simply because it was not in the public eye, and there was “a cultural bias” in Japan that supported Japanese parents who had abducted children, Benda said.

“However, as the number of cases kept growing at an ever increasing rate, with parents becoming more and more organized and being able to use the Internet to leverage this issue, it started to catch the attention of leaders in the US, Japan, and other countries,” he explained. “In addition to media coverage, various documentaries, such as From the Shadows, further exposed the problem.

“Rallies and other events held by parents in the US, Japan, and other countries also raised public awareness, as did the passage of various congressional resolutions in the US.

“All of this built up to the point where it started to become an international diplomatic issue that Japanese leaders had to deal with when meeting with their foreign counterparts,” he said. “All of these efforts took about 20 years of hard work and sacrifices by parents who had their children internationally abducted.”

And while Benda concedes that little can be done in his case, he agrees that Japan signing the convention means that other foreign parents may not have to go through what he has endured for two decades.

“We have seen a marked decline in the number of parents contacting our organization for help because of their children being internationally abducted,” he said. “I definitely believe that Japan’s signing of the Hague convention has had a deterrent effect on the number of parental abductions of children of couples with one Japanese spouse and one non-Japanese spouse.”

US nationals seeking advice may contact tokyoacs@state.gov, call 03 3224 5000, or view the State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/content/ childabduction/english/about.html.

David Levy

December 31, 2014

David Levy helped inspire the foundation of the Children’s Rights Council of Japan chapter in 1996, and was an active supporter of our activities over the years. Rest in peace, David, and thanks for all you have done to support a child’s rights to both parents worldwide.

DAVID LAWRENCE LEVY

On Thursday, December 11, 2014; David Lawrence Levy of Hyattsville, MD. Beloved husband of Ellen Levy; devoted father of Justin (Ilana) Levy, and Diana (Danny) Moldovan; beloved brother of Carol Levy; cherished grandfather of Corina Levy. Funeral Services will be held on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 10;15 a.m. at Tifereth Israel Congregation, 7701 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20012. Interment Mount Lebanon Cemetery. Shiva services will be held at the late residence Sunday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to Tifereth Israel Congregation. Arrangements by Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, Inc. under Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington Contract.
– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=david-l-levy&pid=173444933&#sthash.SWnJG6hL.UC6Q7Ein.dpuf

Business Standard
Thursday, November 20, 2014 | 07:19 AM IST

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/first-japan-linked-child-returns-home-under-abduction-treaty-114111200752_1.html

First Japan-linked child returns home under abduction treaty
AFP | Tokyo
November 12, 2014 Last Updated at 14:30 IST

The Japanese government has helped return a boy to his German home in the first such case since adopting an international treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, an official said today.

The foreign ministry said it intervened in a case involving a five-year-old boy, brought to Japan by his Japanese mother, who left the boy’s German father.

The mother took the boy in June without the father’s consent, a ministry official said.

“In August, the father contacted us to request assistance. We have located the boy, and contacted the mother,” he said.

“In October, the mother took the boy to his home,” he said, adding that the parents will have to work out their difference in Germany.

Tokyo’s official involvement became possible after Japan enacted in April the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japan had long been the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations not to ratify the convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, which has previously left few legal avenues for those whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

Hundreds of US parents have complained that they have been left unable to see their half-Japanese children. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.

Major European nations such as Britain and France have also pressured Japan to join the shared rule among leading powers.

The Japanese government has 13 pending requests from non-Japanese parents for return of their offsprings taken to Japan, the foreign ministry official said.

There are nine cases where Japanese parents are asking for return of their children taken abroad, he said.

The foreign ministry has also accepted 46 requests from non-Japanese parents requesting meetings with their children in Japan but not asking for their return.

There are 13 cases of Japanese parents requesting meetings with their kids taken abroad, the official added.

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1594102/racist-cartoon-issued-japanese-ministry-angers-rights-activists

‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists

Pamphlet issued by Tokyo to Japan’s embassies in response to Hague convention is criticised for depicting a foreign man beating his child
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 3:31pm

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

The cartoon showing a white man beating his child has drawn condemnation from human rights activists.

Human rights activists in Japan have reacted angrily to a new pamphlet released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they claim is racist and stereotypical for depicting white fathers beating their children.

The 11-page leaflet has been sent to Japanese embassies and consulates around the world in response to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction going into effect in Japan on April 1.

Tokyo dragged its feet on ratifying the treaty, which broadly stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent but without the consent of the other parent.

But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.

Debito Arudou said the Japanese “see themselves as the victims”.”It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist.

“After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.

“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.”

Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women.

“It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.

The rest of the pamphlet takes the form of a conversation between a cartoon character father and son, but with the storyline showing the difficulties of a Japanese woman living abroad with her half-Japanese son.

Arudou says the publication then “degenerates into the childish” with the appearance of an animated doll that is the father figure’s pride and joy, but also dispenses advice.

“As well as promoting all these stereotypes, why are they not talking about visitation issues for foreigners whose half-Japanese children have been abducted by their ex-wives?” asked Arudou.

Several foreigners who have been unable to see their children for years have already contacted Arudou to express their anger, with a number of US nationals saying they would pass the document onto lawmakers.

Arudou’s post on the issue on his website has also attracted attention, with commentators describing the pamphlet as “racist propaganda”.

“This is disgusting,” one commentator posted. “Pictures are powerful, more powerful than words. And the only time I’ve ever seen anything remotely like this is when I did a search for old anti-Japanese propaganda.

“Of course, that was disgusting too, but it was wartime!”

Another added, “What a pathetic advert for an ‘advanced’ country.

“As for the text – not wasting any more bandwidth on such utter racist, xenophobic, patronising, paranoid nonsense.”
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as ‘Racist’ cartoon sparks outrage

The following is a copy of the English language version of the pamphlet:

MOFA Hague Convention pamphlet

Goldman Act update

August 29, 2014

http://ind.gmnews.com/news/2014-08-07/Front_Page/Goldman_Act_bolsters_fight_for_return_of_abducted_.html

Goldman Act bolsters fight for return of abducted children
By ADAM C. UZIALKO
Staff Writer

A bill empowering the U.S. State Department to aggressively pursue the return of internationally abducted children is headed to the president’s desk after being approved by Congress.

The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the fourth bill of its kind introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4), was drafted after Smith became involved with David Goldman’s fight to be reunited with his son, Sean.

According to Jeff Sagnip, the congressman’s press secretary, Goldman’s wife absconded with Sean from the family’s Tinton Falls home in June 2004, bringing him to Brazil when he was 4 years old without seeking custody of Sean or legally divorcing Goldman in a U.S. court.

She subsequently died in childbirth, Sagnip said, and the Brazilian government held that her partner at the time of her death should maintain custody of Sean.

Brazil is a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but chose to ignore the policies outlined by the international agreement, Sagnip said.

“Previously, the State Department would say ‘… There’s nothing that we can do,” Sagnip said. “[For a parent] trying to get a foreign court to award custody, it’s very difficult and returns are rare.”

The Sean and David Goldman Act (H.R. 3212) would allow U.S. embassies to apply pressure in incremental phases to dissuade governments from ignoring international law and sheltering abductors.

“[This bill] provides a series of tools which vary in their severity, from mild to strong,” Sagnip said. “The State Department is able to start with a little pressure and then build the pressure [on foreign governments refusing to return abducted American children to their homes.]”

Those tools include a private diplomatic protest called a demarche, a public condemnation of the foreign government, the withholding of economic aid and, eventually, demands for the extradition of the abductor.

Goldman, who was reunited with his son after five years of heavy investment both financial and emotional, said the passage of the bill provides hope for parents facing the same struggle he did.

“It was a long road, nearly five years, thanks to a tremendous effort of Congressman Smith and his staff,” Goldman said. “It was a great thing to do. It was the right thing to do. It’s another step closer to reuniting families. Next step: the White House.”

For victims of international child abduction and their parents, Smith said the Sean and David Goldman Act represents a shift in U.S. policy that will benefit separated family members. “Many children and parents have tragically lost years separated from each other in violation of U.S. and international law,” Smith said. “They have missed birthdays, holidays, and family time that they can never get back. H.R. 3212 ensures that they will now receive significant help from the U.S. government in their fight to recover their children.”

According to Sagnip, the bill allows the State Department to use the leverage already at its disposal in international abduction cases — leverage that is invaluable to an individual parent who only has so many resources to expend.

“How can a parent in Rutherford, New Jersey … fight a battle that’s halfway across the world? How do they pay for it?” Sagnip said. “It’s a tremendous expense, it’s a tremendous undertaking, and this [bill] puts the State Department in their corner.”

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