In a previous posting we had provided an email address to send your information to, but instead please submit your application via the following link:
I’m also very aware about the question of the child abduction convention. And I want to thank the government for submitting to the Diet. We’re very hopeful that that will be able to be passed, but we’re also sensitive to the fact that there are ongoing cases that will not be grandfathered into the new Hague legislation. And I want to emphasize to the Foreign Minister that the United States is ready to assist in helping to get those cases resolved.
Lower house OKs Japan’s ratification of int’l child custody pact
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously approved Japan’s ratification of an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes, paving the way for passage through the Diet in late May.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction sets out the rules and procedures for the prompt return of children under 16, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of an international marriage, to the country of their habitual residence if requested by the other parent.
The lower chamber is set to endorse a bill stipulating the domestic process for the children to return to their habitual residence soon, setting the stage for the legislation to clear the Diet in late May with approval by the House of Councillors
Japan’s Constitution stipulates that a treaty will be given Diet approval when the upper house does not vote on it within 30 days as the lower house has more power.
A central authority to be established in the Foreign Ministry will locate children upon request. It will ask for the cooperation of local governments and police when necessary.
Exemptions for returning a child will be given in cases of child abuse or domestic violence, according to the bill.
Japan is the only one among the Group of Eight nations yet to join the pact that has 89 signatories. The G-8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The United States, Japan’s key ally, has been urging Tokyo to join the treaty as soon as possible, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told U.S. President Barack Obama in February that Japan is close to participating in the treaty.
April 23, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
The following email/information has been received from Paul Toland regarding pro bono legal assistance that may be available to U.S. parents to obtain access to their children in Japan using the provisions of the Hague Convention once Japan ratifies the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Paul is the contact point for this and his email address is email@example.com.
If you wish to have your case listed, the following is the information that should be submitted:
Child Sex: (Male or Female)
Child Birth Date:
Child Abduction Date:
Last known address:
The following is the email from Paul Toland:
Subject: Article 21 Hague Convention Access Application – Requesting your response
Please forgive the length of this email, but it is important to be a thorough and clear as possible. With Japan nearing ratification of the Hague Convention, we have the opportunity to gain access to our children under Article 21 of the Hague, which reads:
“An application to make arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access may be presented to the Central Authorities of the Contracting States in the same way as an application for the return of a child. The Central Authorities are bound by the obligations of co-operation which are set forth in Article 7 to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights and the fulfillment of any conditions to which the exercise of those rights may be subject. The Central Authorities shall take steps to remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to the exercise of such rights.
The Central Authorities, either directly or through intermediaries, may initiate or assist in the institution of proceedings with a view to organizing or protecting these rights and securing respect for the conditions to which the exercise of these rights may be subject.”
I know this is not what everyone wants, we want our children returned, but my attorney, renowned Hague attorney Stephen Cullen, has told me that if done properly and en masse, simultaneous delivery of dozens or perhaps hundreds of Hague Access applications in the immediate aftermath of Hague Ratification by Japan would severely test Japan and put them on notice that we’re watching their compliance. Stephen is perhaps one the foremost Hague attorneys in the US (Baltimorean of the Year in 2004, American Bar Association Pro Bono Attorney of the Year 2003, Maryland Trial Attorney of the Year in 2008, etc.) having litigated over 200 Hague Abduction Cases, with well over 100 successful returns. He has VOLUNTEERED to submit Hague Applications for ANY AND ALL JAPAN ABDUCTION CASES PRO BONO.
The plan would be to hold an event in DC shortly after Japan ratifies the Hague, where we march en masse from his office on K Street in DC to the State Department to deliver the Hague Article 21 Access Applications. We would do this march in front of members of the press and garner as much publicity as we can. Additionally we would do a symbolic delivery of the Applications in front of the Japanese Embassy as well (although the actual applications would be delivered from our Central Authority, the State Department, to Japan’s Central Authority). First, though, Japan has to ratify the Hague and Stephen has to prepare the applications.
Questions and Answers:
1. Question: Who can submit an Article 21 Hague Application:
Answer: ANYONE who is a US Citizen and has a US Citizen or dual-national child in Japan that they do not currently have access to. This includes what have historically been referred to as both “Abduction” cases and “Access” cases.
2. Question: Will performing an Article 21 Hague Application affect my ongoing legal case in any way?
Answer: No, if you have Warrants out for the arrest of your former spouse, those warrants still stand. This is simply a request to have access to your child under Article 21 of the Hague.
3. Question: I am American, but I do not currently live in the United States, can I still submit an Article 21 Hague Application to see my child?
4. Question: Will this process subject me to the Jurisdiction of the Japanese courts, and affect the US Court jurisdiction over my case?
Answer: It will not affect your US jurisdiction of your case, but the Japanese court system may be utilized under the Hague in facilitating the access to your child. The extent to which the Japanese court system will be used is really a matter of how the Hague implementing legislation is written in Japan.
5. Question: I am not a US Citizen. Can I participate?
Answer: Yes and no. You cannot file via Stephen Cullen with the US State Department. However, you can file an Article 21 Hague Access application through your country of citizenship, and I highly encourage you to do so to further test Japan’s system.
6. Question: What will this cost me?
Answer: Stephen, whose normal attorney fees are about $800 per hour, is doing this PRO BONO. There will probably only be small costs associated with copying, and filing fees.
So what’s the first step? Stephen has asked me to collect as many names as possible of as many parents who would be interested in filing Hague Article 21 Applications. We are hoping to get at least 50, and if we get 100 that would be a tremendous success. I will collect your information centrally for Stephen and then his office will be contacting you to begin the process. I am not sure if he will begin the process prior to Japan’s ratification of the Hague or after. I will let you know when I find out.
For now, though, please provide some basic information to me so I can collect it for Stephen. Your name, your current address, phone, email address, and the names and ages of your children. Stephen’s office will collect more information after the process begins, but for now, I’m simply trying to get a parent and child head count and contact information.
Please distribute this request as far and wide as you can among the community of US Citizen parents who have had their children taken from them to or within Japan. The more parents we get, the better!
Thank you. Paul Toland
Film sheds light on plight of left-behind parents
BY MASAMI ITO
APR 17, 2013
Images of left-behind parents, holding up photos of their children, flash across the screen. In the United States, Canada, Europe and even Japan, these parents are waiting to reunite with offspring taken away by their estranged Japanese spouses.
The documentary film “From The Shadows,” completed last December, features five left-behind parents and their struggles to reconnect with their children.
During a recent interview with The Japan Times, producer and director David Hearn stressed that he was motivated to make the film to raise awareness and understanding.
In the 6½ years it took to make the film, Hearn and his coproducer and codirector, Matthew Antell, traveled to five countries, including Japan, to chronicle the parents’ torments.
“When you get to meet left-behind parents and know more about them, you can feel the kind of pain and heartache they experience. These parents are not different from you or me, they are real, imperfect, but always loving and desperate to reconnect with their own children,” Hearn said.
“Their relationship with their children fulfills their identity, who they are and without it they are often shattered.”
Regan Suzuki, Paul Toland and Paul Wong from the U.S., Murray Wood from Canada and Rina Furuichi from Japan, the parents in the film, all have had their children taken away by a Japanese spouse or relatives of the estranged spouse, and all have effectively had no contact with their sons and daughters.
These cases are only the tip of the iceberg. Many left-behind parents have spent years trying to reconnect with children who have been taken to Japan from abroad. Toland, for example, has been forced to live apart from his daughter, who was only 9 months old at the time his then-wife took her in 2003. Wood has been separated from his two children since November 2004, when they were just elementary school students.
“When kids need parents is when they’re growing up. They need me now,” Wood says in the film. “They need their dad to help them go from where they are now to solid, confident adults who have the best chance that they possibly can to be successful in life. That’s what they need, that’s what my job is.”
Some of the fathers, including Wood, take the desperate step of approaching their children as they walk to school. Although Wood succeeds, the lack of contact over the years makes their reunion heartbreakingly awkward as Wood struggles to interact with his son and daughter.
Hearn, who as a child was himself caught in the middle of a bruising custody battle between his parents, encourages left-behind parents to reach out to their children, to let them know that they haven’t been forgotten. The director recalled the awkward interactions when his father started showing up at his sporting events, but he was grateful for the man’s efforts, even though they didn’t have much to say to each other.
“For children who are growing up, learning and developing, the sudden loss of one parent can be devastating. I was lucky because losing one of my parents was never a consideration when my parents had their custody battle, but for children in Japan, if a custody battle occurs, it often means that they will lose contact with one parent,” Hearn said. “We find it unacceptable that this result is the best we can do for our kids.”
The underlying problem for many cases is Japan’s refusal to join The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty aims to prevent cross-border kidnappings by parents and to secure the swift return of children wrongfully taken or who are being held in any member state.
After years of international criticism, the government is finally poised to join the 89 other member states, if the Diet approves related bills as early as next month.
Japan is also the only Group of Eight nation that has yet to sign on to the treaty.
Many such abductions are in defiance of court rulings on child custody and visitation rights handed down in other countries that had been the offsprings’ nation of domicile, as well as the nation where they were born. Thus when a ruling is violated by an apparent flight to another country, the spouse could be subject to a fugitive arrest warrant.
Strong domestic opposition, however, remains.
Many Japanese mothers, for example, claim domestic violence prompted them to take the children to Japan in the first place. And Japanese authorities have repeatedly stressed that in such cases, children will not be sent back regardless of the convention.
Left-behind parents, however, feel this argument could be an easy justification for courts in Japan to side with the alleged abused party and not return their children.
“I’m worried because there are plenty of signatory countries all over the world (whose) compliance record can be very up or down,” Hearn said. “My worry is that Japan signs but nothing really changes. But I hope I’m wrong.”
Some experts and foreign officials have also questioned the effectiveness of Japan’s participation, citing not only the sole-custody law but also the custom of not proactively supporting visitation rights for noncustodial parents.
According to Japanese family courts, there were 409 cases of parents seeking the return of their abducted children in 2001 — a number that jumped to 1,985 by 2011. Experts point out that undoubtedly many more cases exist because these numbers reflect only those cases that have been acknowledged by the courts.
Hearn, along with many left-behind parents, expressed guarded optimism about Japan’s readiness to comply with the treaty.
“We are aware that signing The Hague Convention will not cure everything because there will continue to be situations that are difficult to handle,” Hearn said. “But if signing the treaty accomplishes one thing, we hope that it will create a situation where more relationships between children and their parents are kept intact.”
For more information, visit fromtheshadowsmovie.com.
April 12, 2013
Custody battle turns nasty between Kiwi and Japanese wife
Posted on April 8, 2013 – 9:52am | Category: Local News
By Marc Neil – Jones
Custody battles can deeply affect children and a failed marriage in Vanuatu is turning nasty with police charges of child kidnap at the centre of a battle between a New Zealand male and his Japanese wife in Santo.
Any expatriate couple with kids living in a foreign country goes through the turmoil of child separation in a split up but it is particularly a concern when it involves a Japanese national and children as Japan is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which obliges signatories to promptly return abducted children to their country of habitual residence.
Critics of the Japanese legal system say this refusal has the practical effect of facilitating international child abduction. The issue has become a cause for significant concern to signatory nations, the majority of which are Western countries. Japanese family law considers issues of divorce custody, child support or alimony as predominantly private matters. Consequently, Japan has no enforcement mechanism to enforce foreign custody rulings or recommendations made by its own domestic courts. Furthermore, Japan does not recognise joint parental authority or shared “residence” after divorce.
This in effect means a Japanese mother taking her children to Japan in defiance of visitation or joint custody orders issued by Western courts will have no action taken by the Japanese courts. A father wanting to see his children needs the wife’s permission and if this is not given can have devastating consequences for parents if they cannot see their children again.
Paul Dalley, aged 39, a New Zealand businessman running a seaplane business in Santo, has filed a police complaint with evidence including emails, bank transfers, and airline tickets that Santo police have now acted upon alleging that his wife Yuka Dalley and a Japanese businessman working for Unelco living in New Caledonia had allegedly conspired to kidnap their two children aged 10 months and three years to remove them from Vanuatu over to Japan so he would not be able to see them again.
Dalley states he managed to get the three year old girl to a safe place with Ni Vanuatu friends before contacting the police. The alleged kidnapping attempt was foiled by Dalley working with Santo police who travelled to Vila to arrest her with the youngest child at the Melanesian Hotel which is owned by Japanese and where she was allegedly staying under an assumed name waiting for Unelco consultant Toshida Yasuda from New Caledonia who Dalley alleges is also implicated.
Dalley advised Daily Post that his wife Yuka Dalley has now been reportedly charged with kidnap and police want to interview Toshida Yasuda who is alleged to be in Port Vila.
The Japanese woman has also charged her husband with Intentional Assault and Threatening Behaviour.
Police are still investigating the case and a court date is yet to be set.
Supreme Court fines woman after denying ex-husband access to child
posted on APRIL 3, 2013 by ADAM WESTLAKE in NATIONAL
The Japanese Supreme Court ruled last week that a woman pay her ex-husband 50,000 yen (approx. $535) for each time that she denied him access to visit their daughter. The mother had agreed to regular meetings between the child and father in a family court settlement, and this marks the first time that Japan’s highest court has ordered penalties on a parent with custody for breaking their visitation agreements.
The Supreme Court’s decision was an upholding of a ruling made by the Sapporo High Court, and the measure of “indirect enforcement” is said to often be used in cases where a debtor is ordered to make cash payments to a creditor as a way of having a psychological impact on those failing to obey a court’s decision. Justice Ryuko Sakurai said in the ruling that a parent can be ordered to make payments when the date, frequency and length of a meeting, or transfer method of a child that were agreed upon are disregarded. Other courts have set precedence of punishing custodial parents for not meeting their agreements, but as this is the first time the Supreme Court has made a ruling, it is expected to set a far-reaching standard.
This decision seems like a significant contribution to the changes in parental rights in cases of divorce in Japan. The country almost always grants custody to the mother, and there is no recognition of dual-custody, often leaving the father with no rights to see their children. In the last decade, the number of court cases involving divorced, non-custodial parents demanding to see their children has tripled, less than 3,000 in 2001, to well over 8,000 in 2011. In addition, the Japanese government has finally committed to joining the Hague Convention on child abduction, an international treaty that requires taken children to be returned to the country of their original home in order to resolve custody in a failed international marriage. Up until now, Japan has been seen as a safe-haven for its nationals to bring their children back to without notifying their foreign spouses.