Savoie wins $6.1 million judgement relating to Japanese abduction

May 10, 2011

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/749bad3e5a664aaea8d4c61a5df2c57a/TN–Japan-US-Custody-Battle

Tennessee man wins $6.1 million judgment from ex-wife who abducted children to Japan

  • JOE EDWARDS  Associated Press
  • First Posted: May 09, 2011 – 4:51 pm
    Last Updated: May 09, 2011 – 5:53 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge on Monday awarded a Tennessee man $6.1 million from his ex-wife who took their two children to Japan and never returned.

It remains unclear whether Christopher Savoie will ever actually get the money on behalf of his children, 10-year-old Isaac and 8-year-old Rebecca, because laws in the two countries conflict.

His ex-wife, Noriko Esaki Savoie, who is Japanese, left with the children in 2009 after she and Christopher Savoie were divorced and each granted partial custody. When it became clear she might not return, a Tennessee court issued a warrant for her arrest and gave the father full custody. But the order had no effect because Japan hasn’t signed an international treaty governing child abduction.

Christopher Savoie, now 40, tried unsuccessfully to get the children when he made a trip to Japan in September 2009.

Japanese law allows only one parent to have custody in cases of divorce — usually the mother.

Christopher Savoie said Monday after winning the judgment that the money is not paramount to him and he hopes the court’s decision might influence his ex-wife.

“I just want to see my kids,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to get her to the table so the children can have a relationship with their father and mother.”

Franklin Chancellor Timothy L. Easter awarded the amount based on false imprisonment, emotional distress and breach of contract.

“We are hopeful that the breach of contract might allow him to go about collecting damages,” said Eileen Burkhalter Smith, one of Christopher Savoie’s attorneys. “But you never know.

“Hopefully it could give somebody, in the U.S. government in particular, the means to allow this father to get something or see his kids.”

Noriko Savoie, now 39, was not represented by an attorney during the 30-minute hearing.

Christopher Savoie is attending law school and working part time as a legal intern. He has remarried and has three stepchildren.

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