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Parents estranged from their children – plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the Japanese government – pose in front of the Tokyo District Court, Japan February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Chang-Ran Kim

FEBRUARY 26, 2020 / 2:58 AM /

Parents’ lawsuit accuses Japan of double standard on child ‘abductions’

TOKYO (Reuters) – A group of parents fighting against child “abductions” by their partners accused Japan in a lawsuit on Wednesday of having a double standard in how it treats domestic instances of such incidents, compared to international ones.

Fourteen plaintiffs in the Tokyo District Court lawsuit say it is unconstitutional that Japan does not have a system to prevent violation of their parental rights, particularly since it has signed an international treaty on such abductions.

The class action will turn up the heat on Japan’s justice system as more left-behind parents decry the effective condoning by courts and law enforcement of a practice other developed countries treat as a crime.

“It’s time for Japan to solve this issue,” said Catherine Henderson, an Australian schoolteacher in Tokyo who says her husband left with their two children last April without warning, despite divorce court proceedings.

“I had no idea that in Japan, the rights of children to see both parents are not upheld by the family court,” the only non-Japanese plaintiff told a news conference.

There was no immediate government reaction on the filing of the lawsuit, and no date has yet been set for a hearing.

No official figures keep track of the number of families affected, but non-profit Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion estimates that 150,000 children lose contact with a parent every year because of estrangement from the non-custodial parent.

“Japan made an agreement internationally but hasn’t aligned its domestic laws to make it wrong,” said lead counsel Tomoshi Sakka. “I’m curious to see how the government will explain this discrepancy.”

Japan became the last G7 country to join the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention just six years ago, following intense pressure from the United States and other nations.

The treaty lets parents petition to have children returned to their country of “habitual residence” if that country considers the removal “wrongful”.

Asked about the discrepancy, a foreign ministry official told Reuters the ministry was not aware of how domestic cases were treated, but that it held mediation based on the notion that parental child abduction was “wrongful”.

Since Japan joined the treaty, the foreign ministry has mediated return orders in about 100 cases, with the largest number from the United States.


Tragedy of children abducted from dads and taken to Japan


Parents from the US and around the world are firewalled from children held by estranged spouses – and Japanese parents face similar agonies


JANUARY 16, 2019 4:06 PM (UTC+8) 

Keisuke Christian Collins  with his father Randy Collins. The two have not met since 2008, when the boy was abducted by his  mother. Photo: Randy Collins

Keisuke Christian Collins with his father Randy Collins. The two have not met since 2008, when the boy was abducted by his mother. Photo: Randy Collins

Meanwhile, what is glaringly absent from the debate are the voices of affected children.

“In the beginning of my most recent legal battle in Japan, my son, who was 13 at the time, was asked by his attorney, ‘Do you ever think about your father?’” Morehouse said. “As tears rolled down his face he replied, ‘Sometimes I dream of him at night’.”

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American father suing in Japanese court to get access to daughter

July 18, 2015


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.

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U.S. State Department Online Link

January 30, 2013

This is an excellent link for statistics and reports concerning U.S. State Department international child abduction cases, including Japan, for 2010-2012. Also useful information on relevant U.S. laws as well as child abduction related forms and documents.

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Foreign minister to take charge of locating kids in international custody rows

January 22, 2012


Foreign minister to take charge of locating kids in international custody rows

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s foreign minister will be responsible for collecting information on children abducted to the country by one of their parents in determining their whereabouts and settling cross-border custody disputes as a result of failed international marriages, according to newly compiled guidelines made available to Kyodo News on Sunday.

The guidelines compiled by the Foreign Ministry in preparation for Tokyo’s accession to an international treaty that sets procedures for the settlement of international child custody disputes state that the foreign minister can seek the help of local governments, police, schools, childcare facilities and shelters for abused people to determine the whereabouts of children in such cases.

The government is aiming to submit a bill to parliament in March to endorse the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and have it enacted during the 150-day regular parliamentary session to be convened Tuesday.

The bill will state that a central authority will be established at the Foreign Ministry to locate children wrongfully removed or retained by one parent and secure their voluntary return in response to requests made by the other parent, according to government officials.

The guidelines state that those requested by the foreign minister to provide information on abducted children will be required to do so “without any delay.”

The foreign minister could also inform parents abroad and their former spouses who have abducted children to Japan about the system of mediation by Japanese courts as a way to resolve their disputes, according to the guidelines.

The planned submission of the bill to endorse the Hague Convention based on the ministry’s guidelines is in line with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s pledge to U.S. President Barack Obama during their talks in November. Around 10 countries including the United States have been pressing Japan to join the treaty.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major countries yet to join the convention after Russia acceded to it in July. At present, 87 countries are parties to the treaty, which came into effect in 1983.

(Mainichi Japan) January 22, 2012

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The IRS Can Reunite Families, If We Let It

January 4, 2011

The IRS Can Reunite Families, If We Let It

Originally posted December 30, 2010, Google Groups “CRC-National” group

The IRS cooperates with other agencies to collect past-due child support, federal agency non-tax debts and state income tax obligations. Yet when it comes to working with investigators to reunite abducted children with their legal guardians, the Service says “no can do.”

About 200,000 family abductions are reported annually in the United States. These cases, in which a non-custodial relative illegally takes a child from the custodial parent or guardian, represent the majority of missing children. The IRS has information that could help solve many of these cases, but taxpayer privacy laws prevent that information from being used. The IRS is authorized to provide information to federal investigators, but not to the state and local prosecutors who investigate the majority of parental abduction cases.

2007 Treasury Department study compared data for 1,731 family abduction cases with tax return data. In 520 instances, nearly one-third of the cases considered, the study’s authors were able to match Social Security numbers of missing children with Social Security numbers on tax returns. In about half of those cases, the returns also provided new addresses for the children. The abductors disclosed the children’s whereabouts in order to take advantage of tax exemptions and credits.

Those 520 tax returns were never used to help locate the missing children. A federal judge in Virginia refused to authorize the IRS to release the information to investigators.

Hamstrung by the law, the IRS has been able to aid the families of missing children only through its “Picture Them Home” program, which places photos of missing children on printed returns (which are being phased out as electronic filing becomes more common). That program has helped locate only about 80 children since 2001. Those 80 happy endings are just a small fraction of what the IRS could accomplish if it had more freedom.

Fewer people would claim tax exemptions for abducted children if they knew that information could be passed on to investigators, but some would inevitably continue to hand over information to the IRS. Harold Copus, a retired FBI agent, told The New York Times that even under current laws it “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense” that abductors report missing children on their tax returns. “But,” he said, “If they were thinking clearly, they wouldn’t have abducted their child in the first place.”

Dennis DeConcini, a former Democratic senator from Arizona, tried to get the pertinent law changed in 2004, but the idea did not get off the ground. According to DeConcini, other lawmakers worried that allowing the IRS to release data to investigators would create a slippery slope and eventually destroy taxpayer privacy.

There are worthy policy goals behind the taxpayer privacy laws. We all have a legal and civic obligation to pay our fair share of running the government. People are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and have a right not to give testimony against themselves. If we strip taxpayers of privacy protections, it is not clear how judges will react when people start filing returns that contain nothing more than a name, a Social Security number and a statement that the taxpayer is invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. These claims, which are the sort of thing fringe-group tax protesters file nowadays, might no longer be automatically thrown out of court. Besides criminal matters, taxpaying citizens ought not to be forced to disclose financial data to the government if the government might, in turn, pass that data to creditors, employees, business partners, angry spouses or jealous relatives.

But these arguments pale next to the agony and costs of child abductions. An abducted child is torn from the parent or guardian who should be part of their lives, often the person that courts have specifically declared to be the best protector of that child. Parents lose the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a child grow up. Parents who have experienced such abductions often say the worst element is simply not knowing that their children are safe, healthy and happy.

A new Congress will be seated shortly after New Year’s Day. When they get to work, those 535 men and women should ask themselves one question: If you had a child or grandchild whose whereabouts were unknown to you, but known to the U.S. government, would you expect the government to do what it could to reunite you?

When that question is answered, the law will be changed immediately. And thousands of American lives will also be changed for the better.


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