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  • Court Transcripts of Christopher vs. Noriko Savoie re child abduction

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 2nd, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  Obviously since yesterday the Savoie Child Abduction Case has gotten a lot more complicated.  So let’s go to the primary source information:  the sworn testimonies of the parties to the case.

    Now, divorces are generally nasty messy affairs with both sides at fault and deserving of criticism. But the fact is that wife Noriko Savoie negotiated in bad faith, broke her promises, abducted the children, and committed a criminal offense, and she should not be allowed to get away with it. Or else it just encourages other Japanese to take the kids and run (or threaten to) whenever there’s a domestic dispute. This situation as it stands will also remain a deterrent to people marrying Japanese, and is ultimately defeating of Japan’s intent to stem the demographic juggernaut that is Japan’s falling population.

    Courtesy of David in yesterday’s comments (thanks), here are the last seventy pages of testimony in Tennessee court.

    http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie2.pdf

    Highlights:

    There was a restraining order against Noriko Savoie filed due to various threats from Noriko to abduct the children (page 94).

    She promised in court under oath that she would not do that.

    She obviously lied.

    She came to the US willingly, knowing how things would turn out (i.e. divorce, not reconciliation):

    (pg 121)
    THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
    coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
    here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
    her husband was involved with another woman, and
    she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce.
    .

    and a social worker testified that she was in fact acclimatizing to the US and would probably stay (pg 109).

    Noriko even tried to use the allegation of husband Christopher’s Japanese citizenship (which looks like it may be true, although given the relatively amount of time Christopher was in Japan it was gleaned awfully quickly) against him to say that he had the same rights as a Japanese. Which he technically would (but not positively, when Japanese have so few rights between them regarding child custody and visitation following divorce anyway), but then again probably not (as the court admits, see below).

    Court testimony excerpts follow, then further commentary from me:

    http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie2.pdf

    NORIKO SAVOIE:
    I don’t have any plans to
    return to Japan or move to Japan, I haven’t had
    any plans to move to Japan since I entered the
    final decree
    . (page 80)

    (page 88-89)
    CROSS EXAMINATION OF NORIKO:
    … you put in writing to him
    February 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids
    become American and losing their Japanese identity . I
    have tremendous fear for my children and myself . I’m
    overwhelmed without a problem . Therefore, please
    cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

    A. Correct.

    Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat
    to him ; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m
    going to take your children and you will never see them
    again . You understand his fear?

    A I do understand his fear; however –

    Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that
    fear ; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin,
    what can you say to their father that assures us that
    when you get to Japan –

    A. Yes.

    Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends
    and your — as you said, all the people that came to the
    airport, influence you to just stay there ; what
    assurance do we have?

    A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here .
    First of all, I have never thought about taking children
    away from their father, never . And — but based on
    that –

    Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the
    questions, if you would — do you have plans to take
    your children and move to Japan?

    A . No, I don’t .

    (pg 96-97)
    NORIKO: Yes, I actually want to say because if you
    talking about based on he has no authority in Japan,
    however, he is Japanese citizen ; he is not — Hague
    Convention has nothing to do with him, because that is
    between American citizen and Japanese citizen .

    THE COURT : Ms . Savoie, let me just say that
    this kind of discussion concerns the Court . I
    really don’t care what his rights are in Japan .
    What I care about is ensuring that you don’t take
    these children permanently to Japan .

    THE WITNESS : Right .

    THE COURT : You’ll never convince this Court
    that this gentleman has the same rights that you
    have in Japan to freely enforce the terms of this
    order, because every bit of the law that I’ve
    ever seen as mediator — and this case was
    presented – and this case, by the way, was
    discussed in mediation, so that’s not anything
    new either .So for you to try to convince the Court now
    that Dr . Savoie has the full ability to enforce a
    foreign decree in Japan, is not going to be very
    productive . That causes me concern that you
    might have some intent to move that you said you
    do not have . See what I’m saying?

    THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir, I understand .

    THE COURT: They’re inconsistent positions .
    On the one hand you say, “I’m not moving, I’ve
    made no plans to move, I intend to go on vacation
    and return here and bring the children back
    here”; on the other hand you’re saying, “but he
    has full rights to enforce the decree in Japan .”
    Well, if you have no intent to move, why do you —

    THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir .

    THE COURT: – try to convince the Court
    that he has the full rights to enforce a foreign
    decree in Japan . There’s no reason to try to go
    there . You see what I’m saying?

    (skip to page 100)

    THE WITNESS : Yes . However, he won’t see
    them again that — that part is that concern
    before me that from a long time ago, like I said
    I’ve never split children and father . I know how
    important father is for children, and I am not
    going to do that . I keep telling him I’m not
    going to do that .

    (skip to page 119-120)
    THE COURT, IN SUMMATION:
    I think Ms . Savoie understands that if she
    elects to go to Japan and not return, she’s going
    to lose her alimony, because the Court’s going to
    pay it into court ; she’s going to have problems
    with her child support ; she’s going to have
    problems with her education fund ; she’s going to
    be fighting her husband in the courts of Japan ;
    and it just — it’s going to be a terrible mess
    for her and the children if she pursues that, and
    the Court has no reason to believe that she
    doesn’t understand that or that she intends to
    pursue that .

    But on the other hand, obviously Dr . Savoie
    is not convinced that his former wife is acting
    with him in good faith . Frankly, I don’t know
    that he will ever be convinced until time passes
    and she’s made trips to Japan and she’s returned
    from Japan, and the children seem to be
    acclimating to the notion that they have two
    cultures that form them ; one is a Japanese
    culture and the other is an American culture, and
    they’re part Japanese, they’re part American,
    they have part Japanese heritage, they have part
    American heritage, and they’re entitled to know
    both heritages, they’re entitled to know
    grandparents from their Japanese heritage .

    And what she will do when she gets to Japan
    and she’s under the pressure of her family and
    friends to stay there and not return, remains to
    be seen.

    (pg 121)
    THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
    coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
    here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
    her husband was involved with another woman, and
    she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce .
    (snip, pg 122)
    And it’s clear to this Court that it’s in
    the best interest of these children that these
    children–and I’ll say it again–have a
    relationship with their father, and that they
    also understand their Japanese culture and
    heritage, and it’s part of their makeup, and that
    they unde, and their American culture and
    heritage as part of their makeup .
    So based on the limited issue that’s before
    me, the Court’s going to dissolve the restraining
    order.

    COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  So the retraining order gets dissolved and Noriko breaks her sworn promises.  That is the background to the case.  Her current extraterritoriality notwithstanding, she broke the law, and now there’s an arrest warrant out on her.  That’s what occasioned Christopher taking the drastic actions that he did.

    Now, speaking as a left-behind parent myself might be coloring my attitude towards this issue. But divorces are nearly always messy and fault can be found with both sides in mediations. And the fact remains that Noriko did what so many Japanese will do in these situations — abduct the children and claim Japan as a safe haven. Then the children are NEVER returned, and usually contact is completely broken off with the left-behind parent for the remainder of the childhood.

    This is an untenable situation. And it must stop. For the sake of the children. This in my mind is undisputable. The children must be returned to Dr Savoie in order to discourage this sort of thing happening again. Anything else is just more encouragement for Japanese to abduct their children.

    More media up on the case later today.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    12 Responses to “Court Transcripts of Christopher vs. Noriko Savoie re child abduction”

    1. fukuoka i family network Says:

      I’m sure he acted in desperation. He should not be in Jail, all he did was get his own kids. He is one of the parents after all. Did you see the CNN report from Yanagawa in Fukuoka where they interviewed one of the towns residents. She said “I’ve heard of the case and the children belong to mother”. Well they belong to both. She’s the one who should be punished, she should be made an example of….But I think he’ll be made an example off unfortunately.

    2. chuckers Says:

      >For the sake of the children. This in my mind is undisputable. The children must be returned to Dr Savoie [...]

      So, for the sake of the children, they must be returned to a country they
      know little of away from most of the friends and family they grew up with?

      I am not disputing that what Noriko did can be considered wrong. But can
      what Christopher did be considered right? He uprooted his “family” to move
      to a foreign country and served his wife with divorce papers soon after she
      gets off the plane. Would he have been at a disadvantage filing for a
      divorce in Japan? Probably. But he puts that same disadvantage on his wife
      by uprooting them to Tennessee. Is that fair? Divorce is hard enough on
      the children. Is being uprooted a foreign country going to make that any
      easier?

      Legally, yes, Christopher has been given custody of the children by a US
      court. But is that really in the best interests of the children?

      Why couldn’t Christopher have lobbied for better Japanese child custody laws
      while in Japan?

      – Your other points are taken. But your final point is, I’m afraid, painfully ignorant of how many people have done just that for decades.

    3. Jib Halyard Says:

      Mr Savoie did NOT put his wife at the same disadvantage by taking the children to Tennessee. The very fact she could plead her case there in a real court of law, represented by real lawyers, is undeniable proof of that.
      Will Mr Savoie have the same recourse in Japan? Not even close, and you know it.
      The Japanese authorities seem to have simply made themselves accomplices in a criminal act.

    4. Behan Says:

      I don’t understand the case very well, but has custody been decided in Japan? If it hasn’t, how could the police arrest the father for taking his kids to the US consulate?

    5. Kimberly Says:

      I can understand (if not really sympathise with) the idea that Noriko grew up in a society where divorce means a complete break, that maybe she thought she had a “right” to the children and that Japan was in their best interests. It’s absolutely her right and anyone else’s to think that Japan is right, or the US is right, or that both are wrong. But I CANNOT understand the fact that she must have known at least to some degree they way the US legal system would deal with the divorce… she was married to an American (or former American?), her kids hold US citizenship, she speaks English well… she either knew what she was getting into when she came before that court, or if she didn’t she had NO excuse for not doing her research. She came before that court most likely knowing how divorce proceedings in the US worked, and she lied and she broke the law knowingly and willingly. I can feel for her on being alone in a new country, but her reaction wasn’t appropriate in any way.

      I wonder why the US, who IS party to the Hague Convention, allows parents to enter and leave the country with their children, without the consent of the other parent? As the wife of a Japanese man who can’t speak or write English or take time off work to visit his in-laws very often, I’ve personally been glad for the fact that they don’t give a mother alone with her kids any trouble at the border… BUT I’d gladly put up with getting a letter notarized or whatever it would take, if it would help ensure that children who DONT have the permission of the other parent won’t be abducted. I’ve heard that other countries (Canada, maybe? although I can’t swear to it) require a letter of permission from the non-travelling parent. Sure, letters can be forged… even forged and notorized if you know a notary with a shaky set of morals…. but the US could have taken steps at the border to prevent at least SOME of these cases. Ditto for Japan on issuing passports… even as a non-citizen, I’m not even a permanent resident… I can get a Japanese passport for my children without my husband’s consent any time I like. Again, convenient for ME… but making the process more difficult would be a small price to pay for keeping other parents together with their kids.

    6. Jib Halyard Says:

      and another thought: couldn’t the parents of some of these abducted children sue the airlines that let the culprit board an international flight with a child and no letter from the other parent? certainly seems like a possibility in the US, at least…

    7. Douglas Sweetlove Says:

      I’m Canadian, and I can attest to the fact that the Customs/immigration agents often ask for some kind of proof if a child is traveling with only one parent.

      I’ve gone home twice with my son but without my wife. Both times, the agents at the airport when we entered Canada wanted to see some kind of letter signed by her indicating approval of my travel plans. We prepared one in English and in Japanese, just in case.

      My son was also questioned directly by the staff at the airport: “Why isnt your mother with you? Does she know what you are doing?” etc. Fortunately, he didn’t smart-ass the answers and just told the truth!

      However, on returning to Japan, nothing.

    8. crustpunker Says:

      The point is this, Regardless of who is “right” or “wrong” in this case, Noriko broke the law and fled to Japan which is a safe haven for Japanese parents abducting their kids. We can speculate about the fine details of the case all we want but the fact is LAWS WERE BROKEN.

      As this case gets more and more coverage the danger is the precedent that will be set if NOTHING at all happens to this woman. There is no doubt in my mind that if she is not found AT ALL guilty for anything, this will surely serve to strengthen the resolve of other would be abductors because really, what is there to dissuade them from doing the exact same thing? This is the real issue at hand.

    9. Jib Halyard Says:

      unlike Japan, in western countries the airlines are the only gatekeepers one encounters when leaving the country. so it seems if the airlines were held legally accountable for checking travel arrangements, in the form of potential lawsuits, a few more children would at least have a fighting chance of not being abducted this way.

    10. Antonio Katawa Ferreira Says:

      I completely agree with mr Chris Dunn .
      ” Children shouldn’t be used as ropes in their tug of war.. ”
      Well put mr.Dunn .
      Let’s hope that both Chris and Noriko suffer for their selfishness , not innocent children . Amy Savoie too shouldn’t be left behind . What a trio .
      Poor kids .

    11. The Savoie Pacific Soap Opera, Part III « Hoofin to You! Says:

      [...] control. But Noriko always had the advantage where she could just leave with the kids, and even the court testimony seems to suggest that she was aware what the alternatives [...]

    12. Kathyi Says:

      A few words for Noriko: Liar, Liar…pants on fire. She should be ashamed to show her face. Took the kids, took $800K from her ex, and pulled a stunt like this. The Japanese government should also be ashamed of their actions. What a mess.

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