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  • Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct

    Posted by arudou debito on May 4th, 2010

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    Hi Blog. Taste the difference in jurisprudence between Japan and the US here. We have Christopher Savoie suing his former lawyer — and the judge in his case — for enabling his ex-wife to get her passport back and take their kids for a visit to Japan, whereupon she abducted the kids despite her court promises. Imagine being able to sue a judge in Japan for negligence! We’ll see where this goes. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    /////////////////////////////////////////////
    WSMV.com Nashville Tennessee USA
    Franklin Dad Sues Judge After Japanese Arrest
    Lawsuit Filed Against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin

    http://www.wsmv.com/news/23277866/detail.html
    Associated Press
    POSTED: 10:43 am CDT April 27, 2010
    UPDATED: 4:37 pm CDT April 27, 2010

    FRANKLIN, Tenn. — A Tennessee man who was arrested in Japan when he tried to take his children back from his ex-wife is suing the local judge and an attorney who handled the divorce.

    Japanese prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Christopher Savoie of Franklin after he tried in September to enter the U.S. Consulate with his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Ex-wife Noriko Savoie had violated a U.S. court custody decision by taking the children to her native Japan a month earlier.

    The lawsuit says the children are still living in Japan with their mother.

    Savoie filed a federal lawsuit this month against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin, who served as both the mediator during the divorce and then later as the judge that lifted a restraining order barring the ex-wife from taking the children to Japan.

    Savoie claims that Tennessee Supreme Court law states that mediators should refrain from acting in a judicial capacity in cases in which they mediated. He also claims negligence because the judge was aware of the risk of child abduction in this case.

    He also filed a state lawsuit in Williamson County against his former divorce attorney, Virginia Lee Story, arguing she failed to object to having Martin hear the case as a judge. He claims she was negligent and asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

    Messages left for Martin and Story on Tuesday were not immediately returned.
    Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, said her office typically represents state officials in lawsuits relating to their official duties, but they had not yet been served with this lawsuit.

    Timothy Tull, Savoie’s attorney, said that judges should be aware of child custody issues that have resulted from Japan’s refusal to join an international agreement three decades ago on the matter.

    An arrest warrant issued in Tennessee for Savoie’s ex-wife has no effect in Japan because the country hasn’t signed the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected. Japanese law also allows only one parent to be a custodian — almost always the mother.

    “Our goal is to educate and help the judiciary understand they need to heed the State Department’s warning that every measure should be taken to preclude this from happening,” Tull said.

    Court records show that Savoie filed for divorce in June 2008 and Martin served as the mediator in multiple sessions before the couple agreed to a marital dissolution agreement and parenting plan. The plan allowed for Noriko Savoie to take the children to Japan on vacation, but required that she continue to live with them in Tennessee.

    Savoie said in the federal lawsuit that he grew increasingly concerned that his ex-wife would take the children to Japan permanently and turned over an e-mail as evidence and asked for the court to intervene.

    In March 2009 soon after their divorce was final, another Williamson County Judge Circuit Court judge issued an emergency restraining order barring her from traveling with the children. The case was initially assigned to another judge, but then was transferred to Martin, who lifted the travel restriction and returned the children’s passports.

    The lawsuit said Christopher Savoie spent 18 days in custody after he went to Japan to get the children back and said he has “little hope of future reunification.”
    ENDS

    26 Responses to “Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct”

    1. Allen Says:

      This man absolutely deserves his own children. That ex of his seems like a snake in the grass hiding in the grass of her nation and a culture that doesn’t like awkward situations such as this. Of course the court favored her. She is japanese living in japan, so it would be very weird for the court to slap the wrist of “one of them”. Why lose face by admitting that a japanese did wrong when we can just blame the foreigner? Maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way, but going through all the awkward injustices of my own parents divorce and custody issues, I can relate to this man and the children.

    2. Eido Inoue Says:

      Allen: the court that favored (if by “favored” you mean allowing the mother and children to visit their home, Japan) Noriko was a U.S. Tennessee court, not a Japanese one.

      Savioe’s beef is that the U.S. judge knew both Mr. and Mrs. Savoie too well, causing the judge to be more moderate towards Noriko and the Japanese children (!).

      Savoie must be desperate (for cash?), as he should know the odds of successfully suing a judge are close to zilch — even though his circumstances are a tad unusual. Note the careful use of the word “refrain” — as opposed to the word “prohibited” — in the article cited above. He may have better luck suing his attorney that represented him.

      As for citing negligence for refusing to confiscate passports from one side due to an alarming email: if we go down that road that Savioe’s current lawyer (Tull) is hinting at, America will basically become a prison for most foreign spouses as passports will be confiscated at the first occurrence of marriage stress or conflict (which occurs even in healthy happy marriages). Not that confiscating the passports would’ve helped: every Japanese knows that getting emergency travel documents / passports at a Japanese consulate / embassy is possible. Confiscating the original passports would have merely slowed Noriko and her Japanese kids down (by about half a day to a full day) getting out of the country, not stopped them.

      I know a few countries that confiscate passports and prevent foreign spouses from leaving (ie. Saudi Arabia). None of them are considered democracies.

      This still doesn’t explain why [American/Japanese dual national] Mr. Savoie claims to be unable to see his children in Japan when he has claimed over and over to the U.S. press that the Japanese police determined he did nothing wrong and how he still has legal access to his children in Japan. One of those assertions must be incorrect.

    3. K18 Says:

      Allan,

      > Why lose face by admitting that a japanese did wrong when we can just blame the foreigner?

      Why do you say that he is a foreigner? Chris is legally Japanese.
      Unfortunately, this case clearly showed that a naturalized Japanese is not socially equal to a naturally-born Japanese. Somehow he is less, which to me is the most disturbing part of the whole affair. It is a slap to all naturalized Japanese.

    4. CF Says:

      I think this guy is treading into dangerous teritory. There was, if I remember correctly, citizenship issues, that is he was claiming both U.S. and Japanese. Nobody seemed to care. Keep banging away at it and Im sure somebody will.

      – It’s his risk to take, no?

    5. john k Says:

      “…I know a few countries that confiscate passports and prevent foreign spouses from leaving (ie. Saudi Arabia)…”

      In the UK, and i think the same goes for EU, the wife cannot legally take children out of the country without permission of the other spouse, when divorced or separated.

      It is not about confiscation, it is about human rights and access of the children with the ‘remaining’ spouse.

    6. Eido Inoue Says:

      From The Tennessean:

      The case was originally assigned to Circuit Court Judge Timothy Easter but got transferred to Martin, who had served as a mediator while the Savoies were divorcing. Before the hearing started Story told Martin that Christopher Savoie had no objection to his hearing the case. Martin asked Story and Savoie if they wanted to postpone the hearing Christopher Savoie told Martin he would “rather go through mediation,” according to a transcript.
      http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100427/NEWS01/4270334/Franklin-man-whose-ex-wife-fled-to-Japan-with-children-sues-judge-in-custody-case

      — so Savoie was actually given the option, by the judge in question, to have a different judge (who was not his marriage mediator) if Savoie was willing to wait.

      I guess Savoie was in a hurry.

      Knowing this, the lawsuit seems frivolous to me.

      Japan and the U.S. are on the same page (as they are with most of the rest of the world) regarding the suing of judges: it’s very, very, hard (if not impossible) for a good reason: if it were easy or even moderately not hard, every person that didn’t like the outcome of their case would sue their judge.

    7. Doug Says:

      Damsels in Distress, or Damsels *causing* Distress?

      The root cause of the problem is that Japan has not (yet) signed the Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction. There are many “emergent properties” due to this fact, none the least of which is the practical impossibility for courts, regardless of jurisdiction, being able to adjudicate fair and equitable settlements in family law matters.

      Until Japan signs the Hague, the pretense of prejudice will always colour these proceedings.

      I speak from personal experience as someone who has tried at great emotional, financial and spiritual expense to reach a timely, good faith settlement with my Japanese ex-wife, who to put it mildly, has not negotiated in good faith.

      Eido Inoue is right to state “confiscating the passports would’ve helped”.

      In my case, my ex-wife’s prejudice spooked my legal council sufficiently that her lawyer was obligated to hold her and my sons passports. After six years of effort seeking joint custody and access of my son, her own council had to railroad her into finally signing the final “settlement” agreement, which due to her own continuing unreasonableness, now requires her to post a bond in order to travel to Japan with our son.

      This is of little consolation to me, due to her intransigent refusal to honor the final settlement agreement, by refusing any meaningful communication with me, I see my son twice a month for two hours in what can best be described as “prison visits”.

      The bond, if it ever has to be paid out, will go the Family Responsibility Office to cover the arrears in my Family Support obligation, which I can’t afford to pay because I sustained a 6 year effort trying to settle fairly with her. I can’t begin to imagine the irony for the FRO, if after seizing the bond, of them then having to try and pay it out to a Japanese national who’s wanted for international child abduction!

      The Japanese are rightfully concerned about their citizens being treated cruelly at the hands of foreign spouses.
      But what they seem to be willfully ignorant of, is that in civil societies, the risk of such cruelty is shared equally between both parties. In fact, it is the transparency afforded by the judicial process that allows this risk to be managed to productively ensure fair settlements.

      Signing the Hague is the right thing for the Japanese to do, not only because it will enable greater fairness and equitable family law settlements, but because it will also relieve the Japanese of the humiliation of having to continue enduring legitimate accusations of racism, intolerance and prejudice. It’s ironic that this humiliation is justified by Japans own unwillingness to sign the Hague.

    8. Steve Says:

      http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie1.pdf

    9. Eido Inoue Says:

      K18: Chris Savoie is definitely not a normal naturalized Japanese, which is why he wasn’t treated that way. He was a dual national. And not just any ordinary dual national: he was a dual national run amok. That is, he attempted to game the differerences between the laws of the two countries to his advantage, picking the laws a la carte depending on which worked out best for him.

      When Japanese get into trouble, on Japanese soil, and all parties involved (wife, children) are Japanese, Japanese citizens don’t normally go begging for the U.S. to help them legally. You’re argument is that Japan treated Chris differently because he’s naturalized and not natural born. I argue that Chris was treated differrently because he neither acted like a normal Japanese citizen nor a normal dual citizen.

      Chris, as a naturalized Japanese, signed a formal oath to the Japanese constitution, the supreme law of Japan. However, he chooses American law when it suits him.

      Governents don’t like dual citizenship because of the messy legal problems that occur when the laws of two countries are in conflict. If I was an opponent of dual citizenship, Chris would be my poster boy for worst case scenario of this problem. Japan only recognizes divorce between Japanese under Japanese law (to prevent the exact scenario that Noriko got herself into).

    10. Peter Says:

      Japanese law sides with the mother in most cases. There are a number of Japanese men who divorced their foreign-citizen wives and find themselves unable to see their children in Japan、so the mostly-male judges tend to favor the mother in all cases. Even amongst Japanese-Japanese divorces, the mother often refuses to allow the father to see their children. Here is one Japanese man’s comments on the subject.

      http://www.allrikon.com/th04.html

    11. Kim Says:

      Marriages between Japanese and Koreans are common, so “parental abduction” is an issue between those nations as well. Surprise, surprise – South Korea also does not recognize the Hague Convention.

      http://travel.state.gov/family/abduction/country/country_520.html

    12. K18 Says:

      Eido Inoue,

      Your argument is flawed.

      The same Japanese laws apply to all persons, whether they are regular foreigners, naturalized citizens, or Japanese-born citizens. A typical foreigner on a visa cannot pick and choose which Japanese laws they want to follow.

      The fact that Chris has dual citizenship is immaterial to Japan. To Japan, he is to be treated as a Japanese citizen. To America, he is to be treated as an American citizen. Japan need not recognize dual citizenship; the same laws apply to all.

      He perhaps falsely tried to get special treatment from the US embassy, but did not get any. And that does not justify being arrested.

      The facts at the time were (and maybe still are?) quite simply:
      1) in Japan, he was married to his wife and had full parental rights, the same as his wife
      2) in Japan, he has Japanese citizenship, the same as his wife

      The only difference between himself and his wife was that while she was born Japanese, he naturalized. Everything else is equal. Make your own conclusions.

      In the end, they held him for the maximum time that they could but could not charge him with a crime because he had not committed a crime.

      I think that Chris should have challenged the case in a Japanese court. Naturalized or not, the courts would have to follow Japanese law in which he was equally entitled as his wife.

    13. Allen Says:

      @ Eido: Ah, yes you are correct. Forgive my mistake.

      @ K18 It is not my idea that he is a foreigner, but the xenophobic few who think “once a foreigner, always a foreigner”.

      Forgive my quick and emotional response. I will do my homework more before I comment again.

    14. Hoofin Says:

      I haven’t seen the complaint, but it sounds like the judge is being sued because of damage outside of his official capacity. For some reason, Judge Martin had previously been a mediator between the Savoies during the divorce proceedings.

      A judge is not immune from lawsuits that cover behavior unrelated to decision making on the bench. For example, if you get into a car crash with a judge, (in a U.S. state where you decline “no fault” coverage), you can sue the judge for damages.

      Probably Savoie’s theory is that the judge harmed him as mediator by not removing himself from the case when he later became judge.

      As to Savoie, I agree with Eido (Inoue). What makes his actions uncomfortable is that he thought he could be slick and do some forum shopping of the courts and the laws. He sought a Japanese passport without turning his American passport in. He went back to America with the intention of filing for divorce, even though he was, at the same time, a Japanese, because he knew the rules were better for him there.

      This is different than relying on American rules that might apply to you when you are an expat in Japan. Or relying on a treaty that(supposedly) protects your rights when you are in Japan. Savoie wanted the benefit of whichever ones were more beneficial to him, and he used money to drag Mrs. Savoie along.

      I don’t really condone what Mrs. Savoie did. I frankly think there should be joint-custody rules in Japan, which would eliminate a lot of these broken family spats. But I’m not Japanese. It seems the “family” to a lot of these kids becomes the group of teens that they hang out with after school, so I don’t understand why the Old Guard won’t just get on the ball and modernize Japanese family law. But anyway . . .

      It will be interesting to see how far Chris Savoie gets with this. It’s also interesting that he’s suing the former attorney, who probably didn’t do the legwork to see if Judge Martin qualified to hear the case.

    15. Tkyoshizzleness Says:

      Big Issue here:

      -Not all the facts are being presented to the readers

      -Dude gave his wife $800,000 to her after they divorced! Then she hoped on a plane to teh j-land?srsly wtf?1…n00b

      -He had 2 passports and is over the age of 22 which means he should have given up his U.S passport when he naturalized, so what happened when the J-government found out he was still an U.S citizen?

      Overall this whole story up until now just teaches us readers:

      -Marrying Japanese people means they can take your money and your kids with no consequences

      -The U.S government doesn’t like it’s embassies letting in screaming/frantic white people running holding their kids

      -don’t forget to bring a towel

    16. Jib Halyard Says:

      is it not possible to sue the airlines in these abduction cases?
      after all, they are expected to make sure all their passengers have proper passports and visas before boarding. why should they not also be responsible for ensuring child passengers are legally accompanied by custodial parents?
      i’m no lawyer, but it seems to me the airline would be an obvious target for a lawsuit in cases like this. surely to god they must bear some liability when their facilities are used to break the law…

    17. Eido Inoue Says:

      Tokyo Sam: the “$800k” figure you cite as “given” is not a verified “fact.” Nobody (in the public) knows if she received all that money (there are questions regarding the state of Savoie’s financial health) and the court transcripts hint that not all the money was received or transferred. There is the possibility that she left (some, much, or all) of the money behind, either because it was inaccessible (tied to investments, etc) and not liquid or portable.

      Regarding forced revokation of citizenship. While possible, it’s very, very hard to do (either for the U.S. or Japan). Even if you lie to the governments. However, in this particular case, it may make sense for the Japanese to allow 佐保井さん {Saboi-san} to keep his Japanese citizenship as it would allow them greater control of him. If he gets into anymore hijinx on Japanese soil, Japanese law has precedence in the name of sovereignty if he’s Japanese — regardless of the other nationalities he may have. And as long as you have two passports, there are a lot of things you can’t do: he can’t update his 戸籍 {koseki} to indidate overseas custody status, for example (because to do this you need a visa in your Japanese passport proving you’re an overseas resident). He can’t reflect his marriage status as divorced on his 戸籍 {koseki} because Japan doesn’t recognize overseas divorces between two Japanese. This means he can’t remarry in the States because most marriage licenses require that you not be registered as married to anyone else anywhere in the world (bigamy prevention) †. He also can’t vote absentee for the same passport-lacking-proper-visas reason.

      He’s going to have a hard time exercising a lot of his rights as a Japanese because his dual nationality has messed up his paperwork, so to speak.

      † … except he *did* remarry in Tennessee. Let’s give Savoie the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t see the section on his new marriage application where he swore he was not recognized as married anywhere else in the world.

    18. TJJ Says:

      @ Jib Halyard

      I don’t think suing the airlines is a good start. Firstly the airlines are by-and-large private companies. They are there to transport people and luggage (etc) from one place to another and they are not responsible for monitoring custodial awards or any other legal status of their customers. You don’t really want to give them that power do you?

      The airports on the other hand include customs and immigration controls that are administered by the government and it is part of their remit to have regard to the legal right for people to travel from one place to another. In this respect it may be productive to sue the government, however, this will also encourage the further prying into personal information by the government – do you really want that?

    19. HO Says:

      The court document clearly shows that both Mr. and Mrs. Savoie agreed in their final decree that Mrs. Savoie can take the children to Japan for 6 weeks. (page 125, line 16)
      http://www.debito.org/?p=4614

      Mr. Savoie then changed his mind and asked the court for a restraining order, effectively baring her trip to Japan with the children. Judge Martin turned down the restraining order so as to enable what was agreed in the final decree.

      Mr. Savoie should not blame the judge for it was Mr. Savoie that agreed to their trip to Japan.

    20. Eido Inoue Says:

      Jib: perhaps, but in Noriko’s case, her paperwork would have checked out: she’s Japanese, her children are Japanese, her husband is Japanese, she’s (according to Japan) listed as still married to her Japanese husband, and her final destination was Japan.

    21. Eido Inoue Says:

      Hi K18, thanks for your comments.

      I think Chris’ quest for special extranational treatment, beyond what a Japanese (naturalized or not) could get, went beyond the plea to the U.S. after arrest: Chris, for good reason , didn’t want to get divorced in Japan ‡ because he knew that the odds of losing custody and not seeing his kids were very, very high. So he divorced in Tennessee. But here’s the rub, and this is why I don’t believe my argument is flawed: Chris is Japanese. Noriko is Japanese. So Japanese law is very clear: If both are Japanese citizens must be married and divorced under Japanese law regardless of what country they are in. And there’s where Chris Savoie found his loophole and exploited an area where the laws conflict: Tennessee thought they had jurisdiction because the plaintiff (Chris) resided in TN for six months before filing (no doubt Chris left out the detail that his marriage was registered in Japan and he was Japanese to the Tennessee legal clerks). Japan thinks they have jurisdiction regarding divorce because it’s a matter between two Japanese citizens. Bottom line: that divorce should have never been done in TN. Chris (and possibly Noriko, for whatever reason) willingly snowed the Japanese and Tennessee courts. Normal Japanese and normal dual nationals can’t hide one nationality and use another nationality to shop for alternative, conflciting laws that they like better.

      ★ Regarding the “does not justify being arrested” statement: Japanese papers reported the use of force to re-abduct the kids. That is worthy of arrest — even when married, with custody rights, in Japan. Now, I’m well aware that Chris got his PR agency † to put the word that no use of force occurred in the U.S. media (TN Channel 5, CNN etc). One Japanese paper did detail the use of force. The Japanese police did not bother refuting Chris’ PR. Not because what he said was true — but rather because it doesn’t matter what the U.S. press or Chris says is true or not; Japan does not do trials through the manipulation of public (especially foreign) opinion in the media to the same extent that the U.S. does. The American version of the story comes almost exclusively from Chris Savoie and his PR agents. The U.S. media, being lazy, relied mostly on Chris’ statements and did little journalism to verify his statements or qualify their lack of verification.

      My opinion: I find it very difficult to believe that Chris could have done a drive-by intercept during his wife and children’s school commute, loading his kids into a car without encountering serious resistance from his wife, who would’ve been in a state of panic and a mother’s instinctive defense mode at the thought of having her children re-abducted. It defies belief to envision Chris’ version of events, where an exchange of children could’ve happened peacefully, with the wife calming standing dumbfounded on the sidewalk as Chris and his accomplices loaded them in the van before dialing 110 as the van sped away.

      ★ Regarding the “could not charge him with a crime because he had not committed a crime” statement: again, this comes from the Savoie PR camp and the naive U.S. media. Just because they released him doesn’t mean a crime was not committed. That’s the conclusion that team Savoie team provided to the U.S. press. There are lots of reasons why people are released without being charged. There are lots of self-confessional tales you can find on the net about drunken non-Japanese assaulting taxi cab drivers or getting into fisticuffs on the Roppongi streets, then doing their time during the 代用監獄 {daiyō kangoku} holding period, then getting released without being charged with a crime after displaying an appropriate level of remorse, paying a fine, etc. for the sin. Thus, not having enough evidence is not the only reason for a release.

      Also, you said he was held for the “maximum time.” He wasn’t. He was held for 18 days. The maximum is 23 days for 代用刑事施設 {daiyō keiji shisetsu}: 72 hours + 10 days + 10 days extension.

      My opinion: there is a paradox in the statement that Savoie can’t see his children in Japan yet he did no wrong in Japan during his last visit and he has rights to his kids in Japan. Chris claims that he was quote “forced to give up my rights to see my kids ex-judicially by the prosecutor even though I still have formal custody under Japanese law” . You can’t be “forced” to give up your rights if you still have legal custody; he did something wrong, he knew he was facing jail time (possibly up to five years) if he was charged, so either he or the JP police arranged a behind-closed-doors gentlemen’s agreement such that the police would overlook his transgression in exchange for giving the Japanese police something they wanted, which was to protect Noriko and her kids by getting him to volunteer to stay out of his first family’s lives and possibly stay out of Japan.

      † “Ambassador Agency, Inc.” in TN.

      ‡ Why somebody that dislikes Japanese (divorce) law or dislikes renouncing would naturalize — which is not just about additional privileges like voting but also about responsibilities and respect for Japanese law/constitution — is beyond my comprehension (unless you had ulterior motives). Naturalizing is not something you do without years of careful thought and months of preparation. It’s not like getting a tattoo while drunk or a Vegas wedding at 3am. You don’t go on a bender in Roppongi and stumble into the 法務局 {hōmukyoku} (Japanese legal affairs bureau) at midnight and wake up the next morning, hungover, and say “OMG! How did I end up with this Japanese passport‽” Unlike a Vegas wedding and tattoo, Japanese nationality is harder to get, and even harder to remove. The fact that Japanese naturalization procedures are so careful to emphasize over and over and over that you have to intend to renounce your other citizenships and that you have to sign a formal intent to renounce document makes me question Savoie’s motives from his early days in Japan. It’s like crossing your fingers behind your back and winking at the bridesmaid during your wedding when the priest asks you, “Do you promise to be faithful … better or worse … until death do you part?”

      § The morale: if you don’t want to be 100% subject to Japanese divorce law (or any other Japanese law, for that matter), don’t naturalize to Japanese. Keeping your other nationalities — even if you somehow get away with it — in an attempt to circumvent the Japanese law, won’t always work (even if you’re back in your homeland), as Chris Savoie found out.

    22. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Why somebody that dislikes Japanese (divorce) law or dislikes renouncing would naturalize — which is not just about additional privileges like voting but also about responsibilities and respect for Japanese law/constitution — is beyond my comprehension (unless you had ulterior motives). Naturalizing is not something you do without years of careful thought and months of preparation.

      Eido, good comments. One point where I disagree is that I don’t think Chris had any idea that he might some day get divorced when he naturalized. It looks to me as if once he realized that he and his wife would be divorcing, then it became clear to him that he would probably lose his kids forever, and he decided to attempt to take advantage of the dual nationality loophole and get the case heard in the US so that this wouldn’t happen. (Sneaky and self-serving, sure, but not quite as sneaky as signing a joint custody agreement knowing that you plan to disregard it and hide behind Japan’s fortress walls, like Noriko did!)

      Then this turned into a series of escalating back-and-forth moves by both Chris and Noriko, each taking advantage of whatever law or jurisdiction was in their favor at the time.

      Ultimately it is the child custody law that is flawed — it shouldn’t (morally) have been possible for Noriko to take the kids for herself in Japan, and, more generally, for one parent to totally cut the children off from the other parent after a divorce. Chris, as a naturalized Japanese whose marriage was registered in Japan, should have been able to split custody with Noriko, in Japan — whether he wanted to return to Tennessee or not. He’s Japanese, but he’s also a father. For him to be able to perform his duty as the former and exercise his rights as the latter, it needs to be possible for him to be able to share custody of his children in Japan.

      I sincerely hope that changes are made in Japanese custody law, not just for Chris and Noriko’s kids, but for all the left-behind parents, regardless of nationality.

      – Quite. I talked to my younger daughter’s (Junior High) homeroom teacher yesterday, trying to set up a meeting to find out how she’s doing in school (since nobody’s informing me directly). She refused, since in her view the fact that there has been a divorce means there are privacy issues (kojin jouhou) involved. I asked whether a divorce means I am not her father anymore and therefore unentitled. She repeated the mantra of privacy issues. Hence a lack of possibility of enforceable joint custody in Japan means there are no parental rights whatsoever even recognized by educational authorities. Made for a pretty upset evening last night.

    23. Mark Hunter Says:

      Debito…..I can’t imagine the heartbreak involved in all this. Sometimes the actual emotional impact of having part of you ripped away is not conveyed to its true extent. Added to this is the coldness and lack of compassion shown by some people. It is truly mind-boggling.

    24. Lawful Says:

      Expatriation after June 3, 2004 and before June 16, 2008

      The American Jobs Creation Act (AJCA) of 2004 amends Section 877 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which provides for an alternative tax regime for certain, expatriated individuals. Amended IRC 877 eliminates the tax avoidance criteria for imposition of the expatriation tax on certain types of income for 10 years following expatriation, and creates objective criteria to impose the tax on individuals with an average income tax liability of $127,000 for tax year 2005 (or higher amount for later years) for the 5 prior years or a net worth of $2,000,000 on the date of expatriation. In addition, it requires individuals to certify to the IRS that they have satisfied all federal tax requirements for the 5 years prior to expatriation and requires annual information reporting for each taxable year during which an individual is subject to the rules of IRC 877. Further, expatriated individuals will be subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income for any of the 10 years following expatriation in which they are present in the U.S. for more than 30 days, or 60 days in the case of individuals working in the U.S. for an unrelated employer. Finally, even if they do not meet the monetary thresholds for imposition of the IRC 877 expatriation tax, the new law provides that individuals will continue to be treated as U.S. citizens or long-term residents for U.S. tax purposes until they have notified the Secretary of the Department of State or of Homeland Security of expatriation or termination of residency. The implementation date of this provision is retroactive and applies to expatriations occurring after June 3, 2004. The expatriation is not effective until the notification and tax satisfaction certifications are filed with the IRS and the Department of State or of Homeland Security.

      Now I can see why the guy did not expatriate completely. He still has family in the U.S. I assume. I think that the Japanese would understand this as a problem for him if he needed to visit sick relatives or work in the US for his job in the future (even for the Japanese government!). And they should. This U.S. law is criminal! Check it out in its entirety. And if he fails to do this he will be blacklisted from entering the United States at ALL and visiting any of his relatives. Basically because he was successful financially if he gives up his US passport now, he will be a tax evader from day one of no fault of his own. Barbaric. But I believe this is why the Japanese cannot and will not force him to do this. It means if he lives in Japan he will not get the expatriate foreign US tax credit but instead would be penalized. He would have more US taxes living and working in Japan after giving up his passport than BEFORE giving it up. Wrap your mind around that.

    25. The Shark Says:

      I believe that our natural parents are part of who we are. Therefore Japan shoud ensure that even after divorce is can only be in the best interest of a child to have direct access to both parents. To a parent you are ‘related’ but to a spouse you are ‘just married’. You can undo a marriage by divorce. But you can never undo a parent-child relationship because the father will always be the one and only father no matter whether or not he is granted access. You can’t change the bloodline.

      I wonder:
      Are there any statistics or other information about what becomes of children who had one parent being taken away from them? Are they more likely to develop depression later on? Are they more likely to have difficulty socializing and so on?

      Equally responsible I believe should be the parents themselves. If a mother has custody over her children, she should realize that their children still and always need their father as well (even if she doesn’t need her husband anymore).

      A marriage where there are children can be divorced. However, the couple in question will still remain somehow ‘connected’ for life – simple because they’ve had children together. But this kind of connection is simply being ignored in Japan.

    26. HO Says:

      The MoFA is now soliciting public input about Hague Convention.
      http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/event/ko_haag.html

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