Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue


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Hi Blog. One longstanding case that has been following, among others, has been the Paul Toland Case, where his Japanese wife abducted their child aged 9 months, then committed suicide four years later, whereupon the grandmother claimed custody and cut off access with the child’s only remaining parent. More details below.

Godspeed to a satisfactory resolution, Paul. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Custody case a test for Japan, says U.S. father seeking access to girl held by grandmother
The Japan Times, OCT 26, 2015

A U.S. man seeking access to his daughter said Monday that the case is an opportunity for Japan to prove to the world it no longer tolerates parental child abduction.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for denying access to his 13-year-old daughter.

His former wife left with the child in 2003, at the age of 9 months, after their marriage failed. The woman committed suicide four years later.

Toland said his situation would amount to a “felony crime” in other countries with up-to-date family laws.

“In Japan, this abduction by a nonparent is not only accepted, but it is condoned. I’m the only parent in the world to (my daughter),” Toland said, who is in Japan for the first time since the trial at the Tokyo Family Court kicked off in July.

Toland said if the case is resolved it would demonstrate to the world that Japan is turning over a new leaf after years of notoriety as a “safe haven” for parental child abduction. If his daughter is not returned to him, he said, it will only alienate the nation further.

Japan joined The Hague Convention on cross-border parental child kidnapping in 2014. The pact does not apply in Toland’s case because the abduction was within Japan — Toland’s family was based in Yokohama at the time. In addition to this, the convention cannot be applied retroactively.

“How can we expect Japan to ever resolve more complicated divorce, child custody issues if it cannot even resolve this very straightforward case, which does not involve divorce and where one parent is deceased and the nonparent is withholding a child above the parent who wants to care for her?” he said.

Rest of the article at


U.S. father calls for return of his daughter at Japan family court
By May Masangkay
TOKYO, Oct. 26, Kyodo News, courtesy of TK

The American father of a 13-year-old daughter urged at a Japanese family court on Monday to give him back custody of his daughter, who is now under the custody of her grandmother following the death of his former Japanese wife in 2007.

“If Japan rules as it should in favor of my daughter’s right to know and love her father, then it will truly be a threshold step for Japan, and Japan will be closer to joining the rest of the international community as a nation that respects the basic fundamental bond between a parent and a child,” Capt. Paul Toland of the U.S. Navy told a press conference in Tokyo.

Ruling against his claim will “truly alienate Japan from rest of the international community” and “show that Japan is simply out of touch with the rest of the world in their lack of understanding for basic fundamental parent rights,” said the 48-year-old father based in Hawaii.

Toland is in Japan to appear for the first time in the Tokyo Family Court to appeal his case, which is not a cross-border dispute, in not seeing his daughter for years.

He urged the Japanese court to make the right decision to return the child to him since he is the sole living parent since his wife died. Toland has since remarried and wants to take his daughter to Hawaii.

At the family court, the mother of his former wife has disputed Toland’s appeal. The father lodged a lawsuit with the court in July.

Toland’s lawyer Akira Ueno, who was present at the same press conference, said his client received in writing from the grandmother’s side that the daughter “does not want to see” her father.

Ueno said the grandmother’s side claims that things are fine the way it is now, as the girl goes to school and is engaged in club activities, an argument which the lawyer says is not acceptable.

As his case is not a cross-border dispute, Toland cannot seek the return of his daughter under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which took effect in Japan in April last year. The treaty is designed to help settle cross-border child custody disputes due to failed marriages.

The pact is also not retroactive, only dealing with cases occurring after its entry into force.

With Japan joining the pact and many Japanese politicians becoming vocal about changing Japan’s response to parental child abductions, Toland said he sees “some hope for change in Japan.” Before Tokyo acceded to the treaty, the country had been accused of being a “safe haven” for international child abductions.

His daughter was 9 months old when his wife left him in 2003 before proceedings for a divorce concluded and custody was given to the wife.

Toland has been asking to see and live with his daughter, but his request for access or visitation through government channels, in line with the Hague pact, has been rejected by the grandmother’s side. Since 2003, he has seen his daughter only several times.

Even in cases occurring before the Hague treaty took effect in a country concerned, parents can seek assistance for visitations under the pact.

弁護士ドットコム 10月26日(月)20時31分配信, courtesy of CS













9 comments on “Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    My heart goes out to Paul Toland. I’ve so much respect for his fight, and the tenacity with which he clings to it, in the face of the knowledge that his daughter has been indoctrinated by her grandmother into the brainwashing cult of ‘being Japanese’. It is truly a test-case of Japanese cultism and racist myths vs. inalienable human rights.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It’s been long overdue. He has been caught in the situation that is–undoubtedly unique– regarding the challenge of proving the case(i.e., abduction by late ex-wife, and its subsequent consequence). This cannot be solved by the Hague Convention, unless Japanese court takes the exception for his case. And this is definitely crucial for underpinning the problems of current domestic family law system that has shunned so many left-behind parents–including both Japanese and non-Japanese–like ex-communicated Amish.

  • Shocking. I expect this from Japan. But the fact that the U.S. government has allowed this to go on is shamefully criminal. If he were Chinese or Russian, his government would actually fight for him, and get the job done.

  • I know that what Toland’s wife did is illegal, but… wouldn’t taking his daughter to Hawaii do more harm than good to the child at this point?

    This is a 13-year-old girl who’s spent pretty much her whole life in Japan, can [likely] only speak Japanese, and seems to be living a happy life. What good could there be in taking her away from everything she’s ever known when what she’ll be getting is living with someone she doesn’t know in a land where she doesn’t know anyone and can’t even speak the language? Yes, justice, but his daughter isn’t some emotionless token that’ll be completely unaffected by this.

    Again, I think it’s horrible what the wife did; but the kid’s well-being is the most important thing here. I think giving Toland (enforced) unlimited visitation rights and/or at least letting him and his daughter talk it out would be the best course of action here. She should at least tell him herself what she wants.

  • @ Anon #4

    I understand your point of view but I disagree.
    After the death of the child’s mother, the child has been under the care if her grandmother, and the grandmother has continued to deny access for all these years.
    Clearly, the grandmother is psychologically abusing the child. Just because she has abused the child this way, making it very difficult for her to her to function outside of Japan, is not a good enough justification for allowing that abuse to continue.
    And what happens when the grandmother dies? Will this child be left alone in the world whilst she has a father prepared to help her, but she has been poisoned with lies against him?
    No, letting things stay ‘as they are’ to avoid making more disruption is just papering over the cracks (ah! The Japanese way!) and fails to address the underlying issue. This child has two possible futures; one where she hates her father for ever needlessly, and one where she understands that her father is not the man she has been told he is. In that second choice, the realization that her world-view is based on a lie will certainly be a shock to her, but the longer she is denied the truth, the greater that eventual shock will be.
    As a secondary issue, I agree that the child is likely mono-lingual and mono-cultural. But she has an American father and therefore is entitled to take up US citizenship. Although at this stage she would be unlikely to do so since her (incorrect) image of her father undoubtedly taints her image of America, and she doesn’t have the language or social skills to live well in the US right now. Given Japans huge fiscal and demographic time bomb, her grandmother has effectively chained this child to Japan’s sinking ship, which by itself is a terrible denial of her basic human rights as someone with the right to US citizenship.

  • Paul Araki-Metcalfe says:

    As a father who has had his three children abducted to Japan a few years ago, from Australia, I grieve for you. I have been totally blocked out of my children’s lives. No contact whatsoever. Japan accepted and agreed that, according to the Hague Convention law regarding abducted children, I am allowed access to my children but will do absolutely nothing to facilitate this.
    Australia will not force Japan to comply with Hague International Law. Japan will nod and smile and say yes, but d nothing.
    I have resigned myself to waiting till my children are legally adults in Japan (21) and then approaching them to re-connect.
    I wish you all the luck in the world. Many fathers are in the same position as you, and i am sure we all are wishing you every success.
    The sad truth is that Japan will always protect its own citizens, and we are all just foreign devils to them.
    Good luck
    Paul Arak-Metcalfe

    — For the record, 20 is adulthood in Japan. But they can vote from age 18.

  • @ Paul, above. This is the primary reason my marriage to a Japanese was annulled at my request; despite the recent signing of the Hague Convention, I was not holding my breath that GOJ would honor or enforce compliance in the highly possible future scenario of a divorce (her main reason for wanting the marriage) involving children.

    Similarly, I doubt our embassies are going to ruffle diplomatic feathers just for a few individual citizens, unless a particular case gets big publicity and causes a stink (e.g. PM Blair mentioning the murder case of Lucie Blackman to his Japanese counterpart, but that is a murder and more newsworthy).

  • @7 above

    You had your marriage annulled? How? What were the circumstances?

    “the highly possible future scenario of a divorce (her main reason for wanting the marriage)”. So you are saying that divorce was the main reason she wanted to marry?

  • TJJ, briefly. The main reason my ex wanted to marry was to have children; we had little else in common. My fear was we would divorce and I would never see my kids.

    As Debito himself has written, no one should marry a Japanese until the Hague Convention implementation in Japan is sorted out.


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