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.

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http://www.katu.com/news/local/Police-Man-violates-custody-order-could-be-leaving-US-with-4-children-272892381.html

Police: Man violates custody order, could be leaving U.S. with 4 children
By News Staff Published: Aug 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM PDT Last Updated: Aug 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM PDT

Police: Man violates custody order, could be leaving U.S. with 4 children

EUGENE, Ore. — Officers said they are looking for a man who may be taking his four children from their mother, who has custody in Eugene.

Eugene Police said 40-year-old Torata Tanaka violated a restraining order and failed to return the children to their mother Tuesday morning.

Tanaka could be taking two girls, ages 10 and 3, and two boys, ages 8 and 6, to Canada or possibly back to his native country of Japan, Eugene Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said.

Tanaka could be driving a 2002 Acura MDX with Oregon license plate ZEJ-686. Eugene Police didn’t specify the car’s color.

Anyone with information on Tanaka, the children, or his vehicle is asked to call 911 immediately.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404040015

Child abduction treaty gives hope to parents separated from their kids

April 04, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

American Jeffrey Morehouse has no idea where his son lives, knowing only that the 10-year-old’s address is somewhere in Toyama Prefecture.

His last contact with the boy was when his divorced Japanese wife lived in the United States. He lost all contact after she and her son abruptly moved to Japan.

But Morehouse, who lives in Seattle, is finally taking a big step toward getting in touch with his son again, and perhaps bringing the child back to the United States.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction took effect for Japan on April 1, giving parents overseas, like Morehouse, and in Japan a legal means to visit their children.

The so-called Hague Abduction Convention governs cross-border child custody disputes resulting from broken marriages. Under the treaty, if a marriage fails and the parents start living in separate countries, the decision on who receives parental rights to raise children under 16 falls under the jurisdiction of the country where the family lived with the child before the breakup.

Before Japan signed the treaty in January, a number of high-profile cases surfaced about the plight of overseas parents who had no legal way of even contacting their children taken to Japan by their former spouses. However, Japanese parents are also expressing hopes that the treaty will help them be reunited with their children who live overseas.

A Japanese woman living in Chiba Prefecture last month wrote a letter to the parents of her ex-husband, who are currently raising her 14-year-old daughter in the United States.

“I have the right to meet with my daughter,” the 34-year-old woman wrote.

She later received an e-mail instructing her to never again try to contact her daughter.

The woman was married to an American who worked at a U.S. military base in Kyushu. After they divorced, the ex-husband returned to the United States with their 8-month-old child in 2001 without the mother’s consent and asked his parents to raise the girl.

The mother visited the home of her former husband’s parents in the United States two years later, but she was allowed to meet her daughter only three times.

Five years ago, the ex-husband’s family refused to let her to see the child.

The woman said she expects the Hague Abduction Convention to help her in the battle against her ex-husband and his parents.

“I hope the Japanese government will negotiate (with U.S. authorities) as equals,” said the mother. She plans to use the Foreign Ministry to repeat her demands that her ex-husband’s parents allow her to visit her daughter.

Although cases involving children “abducted” before April 1 will be exempt from the convention, parents can still call for governmental assistance in setting up meetings with their children.

A Canadian man moved to Japan in 2011 to see his three daughters.

His ex-wife had returned to Japan with the children and had rejected all of his requests to visit the girls.

The Canadian said he met his children three times last year without prior appointments, and that he expects the convention to make it easier for him to visit his daughters.

The U.S. State Department said it received 24 applications on March 31 from divorced parents calling for meetings with their children overseas. A number of parents, including Morehouse, visited the State Department that day to request measures to set up visits with their children in Japan.

According to the State Department, 58 cases concerning 80 children unfairly taken from the United States to Japan have yet to be settled, the third highest figure after Mexico and India.

A representative of a group of those visiting parents said meetings with the children will be the first step in getting the children returned.

Paul Toland, a co-founder of Bring Abducted Children Home, a U.S. nonprofit organization calling for the return of children taken to Japan, said he wants the Japanese government to quickly take measures under the spirit of the Hague Abduction Convention.

Toland, himself, on March 31 called on the State Department to work with the Japanese government to set up a meeting with his 11-year-old daughter in Japan.

Beth Payne, director of the Office of Children’s Issues in the State Department, promised that the U.S. government will continue efforts to settle cases reported before April 1 by negotiating with Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. Congress is currently discussing legislation to enable the president to impose sanctions on nations that fail to take adequate measures to resolve the child abduction problem. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill.

One issue of concern among Japanese parents is how courts will weigh domestic violence in deciding if their children should be returned to the nation where the family resided before the divorce or separation.

Under the convention, Japan’s Foreign Ministry will help foreign parents find arbitration organizations for their demands that their children in Japan be returned to them.

If the Japanese parents refuse the demands, the Tokyo or Osaka family courts will decide whether to issue orders for the children to be sent to the country where the family originally lived.

If the courts recognize the existence of serious domestic violence, the Japanese parents will be allowed to refuse to return their sons and daughters to their former foreign partners.

The Hague convention will also cover cases in which both parents are Japanese and one of them takes the child overseas.

Regardless of the parents’ nationalities, cases involving a divorced husband or wife taking a child elsewhere in Japan will not be subject to the treaty.

Under Japan’s Civil Law, parental rights are granted to one parent after they split. Although a divorced couple can discuss visitation rights at the time of the divorce settlement, the decision is not legally binding.

In many cases, the parents take their children elsewhere in Japan without the consent of their former partners.

Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties are currently discussing legislation to address such domestic cases.

(This article was compiled from reports by Satomi Sugihara and Tsuyoshi Tamura in Tokyo and Takashi Oshima in Washington.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/140401/us-fathers-urge-japan-comply-child-custody-treaty

Kyodo News International April 1, 2014 4:16am
U.S. fathers urge Japan to comply with child custody treaty

A group of U.S. fathers urged the Japanese government Monday to comply with a convention for settling cross-border child custody disputes and help them and other American parents reunite with their children living in Japan.

The fathers and their supporters, including a veteran congressman, handed a petition to a minister of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, a day before Japan’s implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

They were among some 20 people who marched through the U.S. capital holding placards with their children’s pictures and met with a relevant U.S. government official earlier in the day to increase awareness of child abduction to Japan.

The group Bring Abducted Children Home organized the events.

Paul Toland, co-founder of the group, told reporters, referring to Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention, “Today can be a new beginning.”

“But remember this. It’s just the beginning. The ultimate resolution of these cases has not yet been attained,” Navy employee Toland, 46, said.

Toland said he has not seen his daughter for almost 11 years since his wife took their then 9-month-old baby to Japan before divorce proceedings had concluded and custody determined.

His former wife and her mother rebuffed his every attempt to see his daughter, he said. Although he has been the sole living parent since the former wife’s death several years ago, he has no rights to see his daughter.

Tokyo became the 91st signatory of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets out the rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.

The Hague pact is not retroactive, only dealing with cases occurring after its entry into force. But it can provide assistance to parents seeking visitations, regardless of when they were separated from children.

Christopher Smith, a House of Representative member, joined the people in making the calls on the Japanese government.

“Parents here today whose children were abducted prior to ratification cannot be left behind again,” said Smith, who heads the House subcommittee on global human rights and international organizations.

The fathers came to Washington from across the country, with one flying from as far away as Singapore. Some described Japan as a child custody “black hole.”

The fathers and the supporters, including attorneys, asked the U.S. State Department to help realize reunions with their children in a meeting with Beth Payne, director of the department’s Office of Children’s Issues.

The department received 28 applications, involving some 40 children, from the group on Monday. The office has been working on 58 other cases involving around 80 children as of February 2014, according to a department official.

While the department’s spokeswoman Marie Harf described Japan’s participation in the Hague Convention as “a positive change,” many parents who took part in Monday’s events indicated they have little faith that the Japanese government would help them retrieve their children.

They also said they are worried that cases would be remanded to local family courts, which lack expertise on the convention and have traditionally given custody to mothers. Nor does Japan have reciprocal custody agreement with the United States.

The group’s attorney Stephen Cullen mentioned that 200 more applications will be submitted within the year.

==Kyodo

Copyright 2014 Kyodo News International.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

SOURCE: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.authprint&cid=17

Japan – Central Authority & practical information

Central Authority(ies):

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Contact details:

Address: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2-2-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
TOKYO
100-8919 Japan
Telephone: +81 3 5501 8152
Fax: +81 3 5501 8148
E-mail: –
General website: http://www.mofa.go.jp/
Contact point: Consular Policy Division
Languages spoken by staff: Japanese (by telephone)
Japanese and English (by fax)

Practical Information:
(The following information was provided by the relevant State authorities or was obtained from the replies to the 2003 and/or 2008 Service Convention Questionnaires)

Forwarding authorities
(Art. 3(1)): the judges
Methods of service
(Art. 5(1)(2)):
Formal Service (Art. 5 (1)(a))
The Minister for Foreign Affairs refers the document to the competent court of justice. Service is then effected either by post (special postal service, Article 49 of the Mail Act; a report of service is drawn up by the postman) or through a marshal.

Informal delivery (Art. 5(2))
The Minister for Foreign Affairs refers the documents sent to it to the competent court clerk. The court clerk informs the addressee of the documents to be served and the addressee then either presents himself / herself to the court or requests that they be forwarded to him / her. In the latter case special postal service will be effected (Article 49 of the Mail Act; the postman will draw up a report of the delivery).When the person to be served refuses to accept the documents, or fails to appear or to apply for forwarding the documents to him / her within three weeks of the date on which he/she was informed, the documents will be returned to the applicant.

Service by a particular method (Art. 5(1)(b))
When it is so requested, a marshal will effect service by delivering the document directly to the person after ascertaining that he / she is the addressee.

Translation requirements
(Art. 5(3)):
Full translation is required for any document to be served under Article 5(1)(a)(b). We serve the translation to the addressee together with the original.

Japan has not concluded any agreements under Article 20(b).

Costs relating to execution of the request for service
(Art. 12):
In principle, the applicant incurs no charges because the National Treasury bears costs of service. However, in the case of service by a marshal, a fee is charged and should be reimbursed. To that end, the court which effected the service sends a bill of the costs to be reimbursed to the applicant together with the certificate referred to in Article 6.

When executed by a marshal, the amount to be paid for the performance of service is 1,800 yen (service in working hours on weekdays) or 4,200 yen (service in night times, weekends or holidays) plus the marshal’s travel expenses, which is 37 yen per kilometer from the competent district court to which he / she belongs.

Time for execution of request: About four months
Oppositions and declarations
(Art. 21(2)): Click here to read all the declarations made by Japan under the Service Convention.
Art. 8(2): No opposition
Art. 10(a):
No opposition

“Japan has not declared that it objects to the sending of judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to addressees in Japan. As the representative of Japan made clear at the Special Commission of April 1989 on the practical operation of the Service and Evidence Conventions, Japan does not consider that the use of postal channels for sending judicial documents to persons in Japan constitutes an infringement of its sovereign power.”

“Nevertheless, as the representative also indicated, the absence of a formal objection does not imply that the sending of judicial documents by postal channels to addressees in Japan is always considered valid service in Japan. In fact, sending documents by such a method would not be deemed valid service in Japan in circumstances where the rights of the addressee were not respected.”

(See Conclusion and Recommendation No 57 of the 2003 Special Commission.)

Art. 10(b): Opposition
Art. 10(c): Opposition
Art. 15(2): Declaration of applicability
Art. 16(3): No declaration of applicability

Derogatory channels (bilateral or multilateral agreements or internal law permitting other transmission channels)
(Arts. 11, 19, 24 and 25)

Disclaimer:
Information may not be complete or fully updated – please contact the relevant authorities to verify this information.

Consular Convention between Japan and the United States of America

Consular Convention between Japan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Agreements or arrangements concerning judicial assistance between Japan and; Swiss Confederation, Kingdom of Denmark, Republic of Italy, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Federative Republic of Brazil, Kingdom of Thailand, Federal Republic of Germany, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Syrian Arab Republic, Kingdom of Norway, Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Austria, State of Kuwait, Republic of Iraq, State of Israel

Useful links:

(This page was last updated on 15 May 2009)

Japan – Competent Authority (Art. 6)
The District Court which has rendered judicial aid with respect to the service is designated as the authority competent to complete the certificate in the form of the model annexed to the Convention, pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 6.

Japan – Competent Authority (Art. 9)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2-2-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo
100-8919 Japan
tel.: +81-3-3580.3311

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131211/us-house-pressures-countries-child-abductions

Agence France-Presse December 11, 2013 9:03pm

US House pressures countries on child abductions


(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to punish countries that do not promptly return abducted children, upping pressure in an issue that has soured relations with Japan and other allies.

With no dissenting votes, the House voted to create an annual report to assess every country’s history of child abductions and to require President Barack Obama to take action against nations with poor records.

Potential US measures include refusing export licenses for American technology, cutting development assistance and putting off scientific or cultural exchanges. The president would have the right to waive the punishment.

Representative Chris Smith, the author of the legislation, said it would put the force of the US government behind solving the more than 1,000 cases each year in which US children are taken overseas, generally by a foreign parent after separation from an American partner.

“It is a full-court press to finally elevate this issue, where American children’s human rights are being violated with impunity,” Smith told reporters.

“Right now, it’s like other human rights abuses, maybe on page five as an asterisk” in talks between the United States and other countries, he said.

Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, previously led legislation that set up annual reports on human trafficking and religious freedom, which have often caused discomfort for countries deemed to be lagging behind.

The child abduction legislation still needs approval in the Democratic-led Senate, but Smith voiced confidence at passage as the bill has been revised over several years to ensure support of both parties. The State Department had initially voiced concern at proposals to impose outright economic sanctions over child abductions.

By far, the greatest number of abduction cases takes place in Japan, the only major industrialized nation that has not ratified the 1980 Hague convention that requires countries to send abducted children back to the countries where they usually live.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or fathers.

Paul Toland, who served in the US Navy in Japan, said that his daughter Erika was put in the care of her maternal grandmother and that he has no visitation rights after the girl’s mother committed suicide.

“For me, this will be my 11th consecutive Christmas without my daughter,” he told reporters.

In the wake of persistent US and European criticism, Japan’s parliament took key steps this year to join the Hague treaty. But critics say that the decision will not address past cases.

The House legislation calls on the United States to seek legal agreements with all nations not party to the Hague convention to lay out ways to return children within six weeks after abduction cases are reported to authorities.

Smith named the bill after David Goldman, who succeeded in bringing his son Sean back to the United States after a five-year fight with Brazilian courts.

“We won’t stop until we get the children home, one by one, child by child,” Goldman said.

Parents of children in countries including Brazil and Argentina said that they often had no recourse, even if individual officials in foreign countries are sympathetic to their cases.

Arvind Chawdra, whose two children were abducted to India, said he had no other option but to take out a newspaper advertisement because he does not know where they are.

sct/oh

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201311240030

 

Divorced parents take to streets in fight for right to see children

November 24, 2013

By SATOMI SUGIHARA/ Staff Writer

Japanese parents fighting for the right to see their children after divorce are taking to the streets to highlight their plight.

In a recent campaign drive, groups of the parents have gathered in front of station terminals and plazas in 16 cities across Japan, including Tokyo and Nagoya.

Wearing yellow-green T-shirts and ribbons with the words “Stop child abduction,” they hand out balloons and leaflets to passers-by to raise awareness for their call that all parents have the right to see their children.

One of the members is a male company employee in his 40s. The man said it has been two years since he last met his children, now both elementary school pupils.

“Four fathers that I know killed themselves while agonizing about the fact they could not meet their children,” he said.

Since his divorce, he said he has been allowed to meet his children only several times, each time with his ex-wife’s lawyer present. In initial meetings, his children were their usually bubbly selves, but their relationship became gradually awkward and distant since they could meet only on rare occasions.

“I want people to realize that forced separation from children produces tragic consequences,” the man said.

The campaign was organized by the “Oyakonet” Parents And Children’s Network and other mutual assistance and awareness groups of divorced parents who are denied opportunities to see their children.

In June 2012, the groups formed a campaign network “Kimidori (yellow-green) Ribbon Project,” adopting yellow-green as their symbolic colors. They are seeking legislation to give divorced parents joint custody over children and ensure the rights of both parents to see their offspring after divorce.

The Civil Code awards custody over children to only one parent, invariably to the mother, after divorce. This often means parents who do not win custody can no longer see their children when custodial partners refuse.

In fiscal 2012, divorced parents sought judicial arbitration and judgment in 11,459 cases for the right to meet their children. The figure was a three-fold increase over 10 years ago.

A survey by the welfare ministry that covered about 1,300 divorced mothers in fiscal 2011 found that in 51 percent of cases children had not seen their fathers regularly.

Joint custody is recognized in the United States, France and many other countries in the belief that continued exchanges with both parents is essential to healthy growth.

In 2012, the revised Civil Code took effect. It requires parents to decide visits to their children at the time of divorce. But it does not outline how this should be done.

By SATOMI SUGIHARA/ Staff Writer

http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Kirkland-mom-accused-of-fleeing-to-Japan-to-4824996.php

Kirkland mom accused of fleeing to Japan to thwart parenting plan

BY LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Published 7:29 pm, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
 
 
  • Maximus, pictured in a photo provided by his father Kris Morness. King County prosecutors contend Maximus's mother Chie Kawabata abducted the boy earlier this year and has taken him to Japan. Photo: Family Photos
    Maximus, pictured in a photo provided by his father Kris Morness. King County prosecutors contend Maximus’s mother Chie Kawabata abducted the boy earlier this year and has taken him to Japan. Photo: Family Photos

 

 

A Kirkland woman accused of fleeing to Japan with her son in an end run around a custody dispute now faces criminal charges.

King County prosecutors contend Chie Kawabata left the country earlier this year with her 5-year-old son, Maximus, despite court orders requiring her to keep the child in the United States. Kawabata has been charged with custodial interference, a kidnapping-related felony.

Writing the court, Deputy Prosecutor Benjamin Santos contends Kawabata has completely cut off contact with her son’s father, Vancouver, B.C., resident Kris Morness, and has no intention of returning the child.

“The defendant has ignored the conditions of the parenting plan and simply defied the court’s last order,” Santos told the court. “It appears the defendant has made arrangements to move all of her belongings to Japan. … There is little reason to believe this move is not permanent.”

Santos went on to contend the Maximus may be in danger.

Kawabata, 46, is the fourth Japanese mother in recent years to be charged in King County with taking children to Japan in violation of court orders. Because Japan has not ratified the leading international treaty on the issue, U.S. authorities are effectively blocked from returning the kidnapped children.

According to charging papers, Kawabata and Morness divorced in 2012. While Maximus lived primarily with Kawabata, the parenting plan mandated that either parent receive permission before taking Maximus out of the country.

In late 2012, Kawabata asked for a court order allowing her to take her son to Japan. King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel denied her request in January, finding in part that “the detrimental effects of relocation outweigh the benefits.”

Morness learned Kawabata was missing in late July after his son didn’t show up for a weekend visitation. At his request, Kirkland police went to the woman’s home and found she’d moved out.

As it turned out, Kawabata and the boy flew to Japan on July 26. She had a one-way ticket.

In an email, Kawabata admitted she took the boy to Osaka, a Kirkland detective told the court.

“The torment I have endured in recent years have left me … emotionally ruined and forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take,” Kawabata wrote in an email to her ex-husband, according to charging papers.

Since her disappearance, Morness has launched a website describing his ex as a “senior HR manager/child abductor.” He’s also posted court documents supporting the claims made by police – chiefly that Kawabata had no authority to run off with Maximus.

In recent years, U.S. authorities have seen an increase in the number of international custodial child abductions. Watchdogs on the issue say there are currently more than 1,000 such open cases involving U.S. parents whose children have been taken overseas.

Unlike the United States and 80 other countries, the Japanese government has not ratified the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The 29-year-old United Nations accord requires that member countries honor custody agreements made outside their borders unless doing so threatens the child involved.

In addition to Kawabata, prosecutors in King County have charged three other Japanese women with kidnapping their own children. None have answered the charges against them.

Most recently, prosecutors charged former Seattle resident Ryoko Fukuda with absconding with her daughter the day she was supposed to hand over the girl’s Japanese passport. According to charging documents filed in Aug. 2012, the girl’s father rushed to Sea-Tac Airport in an attempt to retrieve her. Prosecutors say Fukuda and the child were already flying to Japan.

Michiyo Imoto Morehouse, previously of Bellevue, was charged with the same crime in 2010 after fleeing the country with her son. Her ex-husband had been awarded sole custody of the child.

In 2009, another former Seattle resident – Mayumi Ogawa – fled the country weeks after a King County Superior Court judge approved a parenting plan stating that her son would split his time between his parents, according to charging papers. The boy’s father has since been awarded sole control of the child.

Kawabata, like the rest of the women, remains at large. Prosecutors have requested that she be jailed if apprehended.

Check the Seattle 911 crime blog for more Seattle crime news. Visit seattlepi.com‘s home page for more Seattle news.

Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 orlevipulkkinen@seattlepi.com. Follow Levi on Twitter at twitter.com/levipulk.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs9ENSzcSs0#t=56

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/08/game-developer-says-his-son-has-been-kidnapped/

IN REAL LIFE

Game Developer Says His Son Has Been Kidnapped

Game Developer Says His Son Has Been Kidnapped

The last time game programmer Kris Morness says he saw his five-year-old son, Maximus, was on July 25 this year. It was a Thursday, and they talked on Skype. Everything seemed normal, but normal can be deceiving. That was the last time Morness has seen — or heard from — his son. Now, he’s doing everything to get him back.

The boy’s mother, Chie Kawabata, has left the US, according to a description in this Kirkland, Washington police report, taking Maximus with her to Japan in what her ex-husband is calling a case of child abduction. Kawabata was born in Osaka, but is now apparently a US citizen.

“I decided to go public because there is lots of evidence she is not returning,” Morness told Kotaku. And by going public, Morness means it: He created a website called ChieKawabata.com. While there’s no mincing words, this isn’t some simple takedown site designed to destroy her credibility and make it impossible for future employers to hire her. Morness hopes it can help him find his son. It just might.

Every story has two sides, and Kotaku reached out to Chie Kawabata for comment via the email listed on the website Morness created as well as through a Facebook account and the cell phone number listed onChieKawabata.com. At the time of publication, Kawabata had yet to reply. There was an automated message saying the phone was not accepting calls at this time.

ChieKawabata.com is a gutsy move that helps Morness get his story out there so he can hopefully be reunited with his son. When asked if he was worried if Kawabata would sue him for defamation, Morness replied, “I kind of wish she would try, because she would have to return to the jurisdiction. In any case, I had already looked into the legal risks of putting up such a website and I am in the green there.”

“On the site are all the relevant court orders and the police report,” said Morness, adding, “I took an approach of full transparency. The trial transcripts are there — and they paint an incredibly detailed picture of what kind of stuff has been going on for the past two years.”

This isn’t the kind of thing you’d expect from a 16-year game industry veteran like Morness, with games such as Command & Conquer titles, Jagged Alliance 2, and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earthunder his belt. Currently, he is the lead programmer on Age of Empires II HD. Then again, this probably isn’t what Morness expected.

Creating a website like this comes with huge risks for Morness, both professionally and personally. It shines a light on a messy divorce with both sides making ugly allegations (more here in the 2012 Parenting Plan document). But shining a light on this case is exactly what Morness wants to do after what he says happened. According to the same 2012 document, Kawabata was named Maximus’ primary parent, with Morness receiving weekends, holiday time and scheduled Skype talks. As noted in the Final Parenting Plandocument, international travel requires “advance written approval by the other parent”.

Maximus spent two and a half weeks in early July with his father, but later that month, Morness could no longer get in touch with his son. Morness emailed his ex-wife, asking her where his son was. Then, as documented on ChieKawabata.com, he supposedly received this reply from his ex-wife on August 2:

After much thought, I have taken a leave of absence from work until the end of August and have traveled with Maximus to Japan to visit my cancer-stricken mother. The torment I have endured in recent years have left me (and therefore Max) emotionally ruined and have forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take. We are in Osaka with our family where you have visited before, and I just need [a] little time to have my and Max’s wound to be healed through the love of my family.

Morness believes this move is permanent since, as documented on ChieKawabata.com, he says she’s tried to relocate outside the U.S. twice before: Once to Beijing, China, and the other time to Tokyo, Japan.

Still unable to get in touch with his son, Morness contacted the police in Kirkland, Washington, where his ex-wife lived. The Kirkland police report on ChieKawabata.com states that Morness’s ex-wife and Maximus flew out of San Francisco to Japan on July 26 without providing the proper parental notification. A spokesperson for the Kirkland Police Department confirmed to Kotaku the authenticity of the police report posted by Morness.

Because of this, according to this Superior Court of Washington King County document also onChieKawabata.com, Morness was granted custody of Maximus due to “custodial interference of the first degree for mother which includes abduction of child to Japan against court orders and withholding access of child to father for protracted periods of time.”

In Japan, joint custody for divorced parents doesn’t exist. Complicating things for international marriage is that, for many years, Japan hasn’t participated in the Hague Convention, which states children must be returned to their country of residence. Since Japan hasn’t been a part of the Hague Convention, this has meant that many Japanese parents can flee back to their home country with their children, whether the reasons are truly warranted or unwarranted. It’s meant there is little non-Japanese parents can do legally to get their kids back.

This case is unusual: Kawabata was born in Japan, but she’s a US citizen. Morness, however, says he “can’t be sure” his ex-wife gave up her Japanese citizenship when she naturalised.

Earlier this spring, Japanese parliament voted to approve the Hague treaty and, as Japan Daily Press reports, is setting a deadline of March 2014 for final ratification. According to The Daily Beast, there is scepticism even among Japanese pundits about the country’s implementing of the Hague Convention as doing so could take years and might need more international pressure.

Today is August 30. It is still unknown if Kawabata does plan on returning to the US at the end of the month. Morness still doesn’t know his son’s whereabouts, telling Kotaku, “I was supposed to have him here for another two weeks right now but obviously that didn’t happen.”

ChieKawabata.com [Official Site]

Owen Good contributed to this article.