Chris Savoie wins US court award of $6.1 million against ex-wife for breach of contract, emotional distress, and false imprisonment of his children in Japan


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Hi Blog. Congratulations to Chris Savoie on his massive U.S. court victory against his ex-wife for, inter alia, false imprisonment of his children in Japan. has talked about the Savoie Case for quite some time now (do a search), but I devoted a Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to it back in October 2009. I’m personally glad he’s staying the course, and seeking judicial recourse that is amounting to legally-binding agreement. This is setting an important precedent regarding the issue of international child abduction, and drawing attention to a long-neglected problem. Arudou Debito

PS: Note the lame (if not just plain inaccurate) headline by the Japan Times/Kyodo News on this, “Wife fined for taking children to Japan“; makes it sound like she got punished for being a tourist. Get on the ball. Call it what it is: Child abduction.


Order for ex-wife to pay millions doesn’t make up for time lost with kids, says Franklin father
Court rules mom who took kids to Japan owes $6.1M
The Tennesseean, May 10, 2011

A mother who left Middle Tennessee with her two young children to live permanently in her native Japan — leaving behind an ex-husband with joint custody rights — has been ordered to pay the father $6.1 million in damages.

But Christopher J. Savoie of Franklin said the money alone is a hollow victory. He hopes the ruling will help end a battle he has waged since 2009 to bring the children home.

“Anything about this just reopens a lot of wounds. It’s bittersweet,” said Christopher Savoie, who said he hasn’t been allowed even to speak to Isaac, 10, and Rebecca, 8, in more than a year. “At the end of the day, I’d much rather have one afternoon in the park with my kids than one penny of this judgment.”

Shortly after Noriko Esaki Savoie permanently moved with the children to Japan, a Williamson County court gave Christopher Savoie full custody, and the Franklin Police Department issued an arrest warrant for Noriko Savoie charging her with custodial interference. But because of domestic laws pertaining to custody and divorce, Japan will not help the United States resolve parental abductions to the country. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues reports that it “does not have a record of any cases resolved through a favorable Japanese court order or through the assistance of the Japanese government.”

In March, Noriko Savoie was charged in federal court with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and an arrest warrant was issued. That effort also has failed so far.

“My understanding is we don’t have an extradition agreement with Japan as it relates to parental kidnapping,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Daughtrey said. “As far as I know, nothing has been done.”

Christopher Savoie believes Monday’s ruling may open a door. His attorney, Joseph A. “Woody” Woodruff of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, said that while Japan won’t enforce U.S. judgments that pertain to custody or otherwise order Japanese citizens to “do the right thing,” they will enforce money judgments.

“They will enforce orders that assess damages for breach of contract and civil wrongs,” Woodruff said. “This is a tool we’re going to try to use to convince Noriko Savoie she needs to do the right thing.”

Williamson County Chancery Court Judge Tim Easter announced the damages Monday, having previously found Noriko Savoie guilty of three crimes in September. Easter ordered Noriko Savoie to pay Christopher Savoie more than $1 million for breach of contract and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. She was ordered to pay Christopher Savoie $1.1 million, to be held for the benefit of the children, for falsely imprisoning them since August 2009. Easter ordered Noriko Savoie to pay additional damages for each day she continues to falsely imprison the children up to a maximum of $4 million.

“Every day, she has another chance to lower the amount of damages,” Christopher Savoie said. “Noriko is not an enemy here. She’s just got to do the right thing here.”

Noriko Savoie was not represented at the hearing. Marlene Moses, an attorney who represented Noriko Savoie in 2009, said she no longer represents her and is unfamiliar with the latest developments.

“She chose to ignore these proceedings,” Woodruff said. “She was served in person in Japan.”

In a related proceeding, Savoie is suing Williamson County Judge James G. Martin III for negligence and violations of his constitutional rights. Martin was the judge who lifted a restraining order on the children’s passports so that Noriko Savoie could take them on a six-week trip to Japan. He did so after Noriko Savoie promised at a hearing that she would not permanently move there. She returned from the trip as scheduled, but left again shortly thereafter and has remained in Japan since.

U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger dismissed the case in December after ruling that Martin has judicial immunity. Savoie has taken the case to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Woodruff said Christopher Savoie’s lawyers in Japan are working to “domesticate” Easter’s orders. Christopher Savoie said he is frustrated the laws of Japan have left him with no other choice than to seek a large money judgment against his ex-wife, but hopes it will compel her to at least talk to him.

“I would much rather her return the kids than see 1 cent of this money,” he said. “I feel disappointed that the only thing we can do is ask for money. Even God can’t buy me back the year and a half I’ve missed. I feel bad for the judge even having to put a number on it.”

Contact Brandon Gee at



Ex-R.I. man wins $6.1 million in custody case
The Providence Journal, Tuesday, May 10, 2011
By Richard C. Dujardin, Journal Staff Writer

Christopher Savoie, a former Rhode Islander who drew international attention when he was thrown into a Japanese prison in 2009 for trying to recover his two children from his Japanese ex-wife by grabbing them as they walked to school, has won a $6.1-million judgment against his former wife.

But in an interview from his home in Franklin, Tenn., the University of Rhode Island and Bishop Hendricken High School graduate called the award issued by Franklin Chancellor Timothy Easter a “two-edged sword” in that it gives his ex-wife a strong financial incentive “to do the right thing” and allow him to see his two children, but there is no guarantee that he’ll see his 10-year-old son, Isaac, and 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca, before they reach 20, the age of majority in Japan.

“It’s bittersweet, because rather than getting any money, I’d much rather be in the park playing with my kids. No amount of money can compensate for that time with the kids,” said Savoie.

Along with his second wife, Amy, another former Rhode Islander who began a career in immunology at URI, Savoie, 40, became enmeshed in an international custody battle that unfolded two years after Christopher, who had achieved international stature as an innovator in biotechnology, returned to the United States with his children and Japanese wife, Noriko, in the hope of starting another business.

Not long after the couple arrived, Christopher sued for a divorce, and two months after being granted the divorce decree in January 2009, married Amy, whom he had known since his days at URI. Savoie says that, as part of the settlement, his ex-wife agreed to provide him custody of the children in exchange for a monthly payment of $5,500 along with other payments for their education.

Then, just days after Christopher and Amy gathered with friends and relatives and their two young children at a waterside restaurant in East Greenwich to celebrate their six-month wedding anniversary, Noriko told Savoie and the judge in Tennessee that she wanted to take the children on a brief vacation in Japan before they resumed school in the United States. It was only when the Savoies saw that there was no planned trip back that they began to suspect that their children had been abducted.

Savoie says that contrary to some reports in the media, his two children had always been brought up in an English-speaking environment. Isaac, who was born in California and went to preschool in the United Kingdom, scored in the 98th percentile on the standardized English test in Tennessee, and Rebecca was doing well, also.

In fact, he says, when he came upon their children on the street in Japan, their mother was walking closely behind because she needed to interpret for them because they were not fluent in Japanese. Savoie thought he could whisk them off the street, carry them off to the U.S. Consulate and bring them back to the U.S., only to see his plan foiled when officials at the consulate did not open the door and allowed him to be arrested by Japanese police.

Despite the exposure provided by his nearly three-week imprisonment, Savoie said he has not seen his children again. Every time he attempts to reach the children by phone, their grandparents hang up on him.

Savoie said his anxieties increased significantly after the Japanese earthquake and nuclear disaster. He said that while he was told the children are safe, by his calculations, “they are within the nuclear fallout zone.”

Savoie said the events of the last few days have given him some new hope. The judgement issued by a Tennessee court on Monday is designed to get his ex-wife’s cooperation by cutting off any future financial payments by her as soon as she agrees to return the children.

Although the court system in Japan recognizes that he has been awarded custody of the children by a Tennessee court, the problem is that Japan has no way of enforcing the custody settlement, Savoie said, but it does have a method of enforcing the financial penalties. “We have a set of lawyers waiting in the wings” to put in the mechanism to see the judgment implemented.

Savoie said he has also been buoyed by what he says is a recent announcement by Japan that it plans to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction, a move that would make it easier for international parents to recover their children who have been taken in custody disputes.

In the meantime, Savoie said the international custody battle has caused him and Amy to reconsider their calling. Instead of immunology, both are now students at Nashville School of Law in the hope that they may be able to help parents of other children — including some 300 in Japan alone — who have been abducted by spouses and are being held in Japan.

25 comments on “Chris Savoie wins US court award of $6.1 million against ex-wife for breach of contract, emotional distress, and false imprisonment of his children in Japan

  • How can anyone justify 6,100,000-dollar compensation for this case? This case will be remembered by Japanese just another case that US courts are irrational and discriminating.

    — I’m so glad we have a person available to as a resource who can speak for all Japanese. Thanks HO.

  • The amount of money, IMO, is artificially large and is not intended, perhaps to be paid. I think there is a legal term for such fines. They can usually be lifted upon certain legal conditions being met.

    In some extreme conditions, for example, you can opt to go to jail or pay the fine. I suspect the conditions to negate this fine would be to return the kids?

  • OK HO, let’s simply reverse the situation and ask what the fair ruling would be: American Father signs a contract with a Japanese court specifically promising NOT to abduct his kids off to America, the contract specifically states that if he does so he will forfeit his 50% visitation rights and become a wanted fugitive for kidnapping, but then after signing that the American Father goes and abducts his kids off to America anyway, leaving the Japanese Mother crying by herself in Japan without her kids. The Japanese Mother of course goes to America with the contract in hand, and tries to take her kids to the Japanese Embassy since according to the contract her kids are now 100% legally hers to raise, but the victim here the Japanese Mother is herself wrongfully arrested and deported by the American officials who ignore the court-issued contract.

    So HO, exactly how many yen of compensation would YOU rule that this American father must pay? Please reply with a concrete figure. Also, in addition to the figure YOU would choose, please estimate what the average Japanese court would rule in this case. Looking forward to seeing you estimate the fair-compensation for a victimized JAPANESE parent whose kids were illegally kidnapped by an AMERICAN parent.

  • As I recall, Savoie had paid out a substantial sum as part of divorce/custody proceedings in the US to try to keep Noriko happy with the kids there; the 2nd article above mentions $5500 per month, and I was under the impression there was a lump-sum payment (in addition to an education fund for the children) as well. Worth keeping in mind when thinking about the amount of the judgment here.

  • 2,000,000 YEN. This is about the compensation for mental damages for surviving family for loss of two children. If the kids were killed, surviving family would be awarded about 200,000,000 YEN because they inherit compensation for loss of life from the kids.
    In Savoie case, he did not lose kids. They can meet when the children gets older. The amount should be further discounted because everything stared when he cheated her. He admitted guilt when he was arrested for kidnapping the children in Japan. This fact will work unfavorable for him.
    I would say 500,000 YEN at most.

  • Hey Arudo, tell me what you think about this:
    Plan to join Hague pact on custody due in May
    Japan Times/Kyodo
    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    — I think I’ll believe it when it happens. The GOJ has made promises like this before, including about this very Convention in 2008 (see below), and not come through yet after more than three years since their last announcement. Then even if it does happen, wait and see how the GOJ will weasel its way out of ever following it (as they have things like the CERD). People have already made those intimations. So I’m not hopeful.


    Japan to Sign Hague Child Abduction Convention

    Japan will sign a treaty obliging the government to return to the rightful parent children of broken international marriages who are wrongfully taken and kept in Japan, sources said Friday.

    The Justice Ministry will begin work to review current laws with an eye on meeting requirements under the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the sources said. The government plans to conclude the treaty as early as in 2010.
    The decision was reached amid criticism against Japan over unauthorized transfer and retention cases involving children. The governments of Canada and the United States have raised the issue with Japan and cited a number of incidents involving their nationals, blasting such acts as tantamount to abductions.

    In one case, a Japanese woman who divorced her Canadian husband took their children to Japan for what she said would be a short visit to let the kids see an ailing grandparent. But the woman and her children never returned to Canada.

    Once parents return to their home countries with their children, their former spouses are often unable to find their children. In Japan, court rulings and custody orders issued in foreign countries are not recognized.

    Under the convention, signatory parties are obliged to set up a “central authority” within their government. The authority works two ways.

    It can demand other governments return children unlawfully transferred and retained. But it is also obliged to find the location within its own country of a child unlawfully taken and retained, take measures to prevent the child from being moved out of the country, and support legal procedures to return the child to the rightful parent.

    Sources said the Japanese government will likely set up a central authority within the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration and family registry records. The ministry has decided to work on a new law that will detail the procedures for the children’s return.

    In 2006, there were about 44,700 marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals in Japan, about 1.5 times the number in 1996. Divorces involving such couples more than doubled from about 8,000 in 1996 to 17,000 in 2006.(IHT/Asahi: May 10,2008)

  • HO,

    Did you actually read any of the articles?

    If I recall correctly, part of the divorce settlement required her and the children to live in the USA and in return she received something like 800,000USD plus 5,500USD a month. Obviously, she received a lot of money but did not fulfill her side of the contract, so a large fine is in order. The initial fine, according to The Tennessean was only 1,100,000USD and then it increased for each day she was in breach. The final total of 6,100,000 is large, but not crazy and if she had responded in a timely manner she could have saved herself 5,000,000USD.

    While I agree that US courts can be irrational and discriminating, I see absolutely no evidence of that here.

  • Good for him. I doubt that he will ever see any of the money, but I am glad that he is continuing to push the case and raise international pressure.

    Below is how the Japanese press is reporting it.

    米裁判所、日本人の元妻に5億円賠償命令 子連れ帰りで






    米から子供連れ去りで4億8千万円賠償命令 日本人元妻に;at=ALL










    (2011年5月10日12時20分 読売新聞)

  • The point of the lawsuit is interesting, but it does not resolve the practical problems that divorce custody cases like this create. If divorced parents reside in different countries, how do you time-share the kids?

    A careful reading of the facts suggest that both parents played an escalating game of trickery against each other with the kids suffering as the “prize” in this hate-driven game of one-upmanship. It’s an unfortunate, lost opportunity. Both parents were clearly wealthy enough to fly the kids around. But instead of growing up bi-culturally with rich experiences in both Japan and the US, these kids will be scarred for life by being lied to, shipped around haphazardly, and being victimized by both parents. What a waste! This is just another tragic example of what happens all too often in most custody battles, regardless of whether they cross international borders or not.

    This is a pyrrhic victory at best. What’s needed is a rational court that can rule on international law cases like this. Probably too much to ask for during my lifetime…

  • I think it’s one area of American government where the general public is woefully ignorant: the court system.

    What Savoie won is called damages. Either the judge or a jury found that the loss or harm to Chris Savoie, by Noriko Savoie taking the children to Japan against the joint custody agreement, was $6.1 million.

    Calling it a “fine” may not be 100% inaccurate. In other legal systems, it may not be possible to prove $6.1 million of harm. The U.S. system, though, operates on the notion that these injuries that are not easily reduced to money judgments can be quantified in dollars. I think all common law systems have this aspect, though, which surprises me when a Canadian or Australian says anything about the American court system. (You have the same basic one: common law, heavily influenced by modern statutes. It gets me, for example, when an Australian or UKer is shocked at the notion of either contract rights or breach of contract. Where do you think America got the idea from?)

    What the Tennessee court is indicating, is that if you make a contract concerning joint custody, the damages for breaching it can be quite high. So either don’t make the contract, or don’t breach it.

    For an aggrieved plaintiff, the U.S. courts are the basic equivalent of those of a banana republic, especially in the American South. A study was done on the ability to recover in them, and I think we were way down the list, maybe below a couple of Eastern European countries.

    Everyone remembers the McDonald’s case, where the woman spilled coffee on her lap and sued. What these people never tell you is that the water in the coffee was near boiling (190 degrees Fahrenheit scale, something near but under 100 metric). The restaurant had been cited before because of the malfunctioning machine, the woman suffered the kind of burns and scarring that you might get if you had boiling water poured on you while strapped into a car. Plus, the judgment was reduced on appeal.

    If people just spent a bit more time learning about how the eye-popping numbers are produced, we wouldn’t have to keep having the same conversation.

    An end note: Chris’ attorney thinks Savoie’s going to be able to collect that money on the breach claim from Japan. Good luck. The first thing the Japanese Savoie is going to do is nit-pick the difference of what part of the award was breach, and what part was tort (the emotional distress claim). Unless Noriko has money in the States, I doubt he’ll get any in Japan.

  • And excessive punitive damages like this are one of the reasons no court outside the US will enforce a US civil court judgement.

  • I had no idea that Japan could enfore monetary judgements from foreign courts.. How exactly will this be handled in Japan? What if Noriko doesn’t pay, will the Japanese courts reposess her house or something?

  • Michael Weidner says:

    HO – your comment that he didn’t lose his children is rediculous. Do you yourself have children? From your comments I would tend to think that you don’t. Any time that a parent spends away from there children and will put a strain on their relationship. Being an Elementary School Teacher and dealing with children every day, I can tell you that even if he does get to see them in the future, those children will most likely not recognize him as their father. Also, if you take into account as what happens in most divorce cases, the custodial parent can and will poison the children against the other parent, further destroying what little connection that they do have left.

    In effect, he has lost his kids. While they may not be dead to him, he is most likely dead to them.

  • giantpanda says:

    There are procedures to enforce a foreign judgement in Japan, but it is a slow, rather expensive process. Savoie would be well briefed on what the procedures are, I imagine, and has decided that it’s well worth while, just to get (i) some kind of leverage over his ex-wife (ii) as an added bonus, tons of publicity to keep his story alive in the Japanese (and American) press, thus generating additional pressure on the Japanese govt to reform the current system, which everyone agrees has problems; and (iii) make his ex-wife’s life as uncomfortable as he can. I sincerely doubt his object is to make money, since his legal costs will probably far outstrip any payment he manages to wring out of her.

  • loverilakkuma says:

    It would be a plea bargain between the US and Japan, should Chris and Noriko have a chance to meet once again. I’ve seen many folks calling the names on the blogs and forums (such as Japan Today), but it’s pretty much obvious to me the problem was with his ex-wife as far as legal maneuver is concerned. The way she left the US with the kids is utterly problematic because she used the US judicial system for this custody battle. It’s not the same as leaving the country without a trace. She breached the contract by leaving her footprints in the court documents and records. It’s a red flag. No country or state will be silent if child abduction occurs in such a manner.

  • Peter, a foreign court order is legally effective in Japan if it satisfies 4 conditions. (Code of Civil Procedure of Japan, Article 118)
    1. The foreign court had jurisdiction by local law or by treaty.
    2. The defendant was properly served.
    3. The ruling is not incompatible with Japanese public policy.
    4. The foreign court respects Japanese court rulings.
    If the ruling includes punitive damages or excessive damages, there are precedents, that it does not satisfy item 3, and therefore invalid in Japan (Supreme Court H5(o)1762, Jul 11, 2007). His lawyers should have informed him of that.
    Contrary to his understanding, foreign court orders regarding custody are legally effective in Japan if they satisfy the 4 conditions (Tokyo High Court H4(ne)388, Nov 15, 2003). With an effective court order, one can enforce the seizure of the person of the child from an illegal custodian. Such enforcement cases are discussed in a book called 民事執行における「子の引渡し」 ISBN 978-4-89628-595-6.
    I think he should change his lawyer.

  • “foreign court orders regarding custody are legally effective in Japan if they satisfy the 4 conditions (Tokyo High Court H4(ne)388, Nov 15, 2003). With an effective court order, one can enforce the seizure of the person of the child from an illegal custodian. Such enforcement cases are discussed in a book called 民事執行における「子の引渡し」 ISBN 978-4-89628-595-6.”

    Thanks HO 🙂

    But wait a minute, seriously, WHY have you been WITHHOLDING this information until now?

  • @Loverilakkuma, I hadn’t read anything about the Savoie case until after I read this post (relatively new to Japan and Japanese/NJ issues). So I looked online and it seems some of the divorce documents are available on the internet, particularly the documents about the hearing that lifted the order stopping Noriko from returning to Japan.

    As much as I’d like to support Chris for losing access to his children, on this I just can’t support him 100% after reading those transcripts. The way I read them (and someone please feel free to correct me) is Noriko had permission to take the children to Japan over the summer. Chris got paranoid and decided to try to stop her legally. Instead of absconding with the children she went through the legal procedure to get permission to return to Japan with the kids for the summer and instead of returning (like she should have) she stayed – no doubt at least partially in fear that if she returned she would be hit with the same legal mess the next time she wanted to take the kids to Japan for a visit. To be 100% clear I think Noriko was absolutely unequivocally wrong in how she handled it. But I think Chris also bears responsibility for this mess because of how he backed her into a corner.

    — Having a stay on travel lifted does not grant license to abduct, especially after promising not to in court in order to have the stay lifted. The court verdict this week backs that up.

  • So we agree that what she did was 100% wrong. Thought I was clear on it but perhaps I wasn’t.

    That being said how does an uncontested unenforceable court verdict back anything up? From reading your bio you were involved in a court case about 10 years ago. In that court case the city of Otaru was found not liable for failing to protect your rights. Does that mean that the city was right? Trying to use court cases as a yardstick for right and wrong is a slippery slope we had best not start sliding down. Far better to look at what happened and agree “this is wrong” regardless of the law or legal precedent.

    — Disagree. The Japanese judiciary is well and truly fucked up. I speak from the experience of five Japanese civil court cases. I would be more likely to accept a U.S. court decision here. But anyway, let’s let Savoie take it before Japanese judicial enforcement mechanisms and see what happens. I do not accept the fait accompli of “who dares wins” in custody and visitation cases. The situation is untenable regarding divorces and custody in Japan for anyone regardless of nationality, no matter what you think of the Savoie Case in particular. So power to anyone who wishes to combat that. I admire Savoie’s moxie for keeping on with the good fight to see what kind of precedents get set. See this case from that perspective, and you might start supporting the side that will do more right for more people.

  • Christopher says:

    The interesting thing, Hoofin and HO, is that our legal team included Japanese lawyers from the onset and we designed the lawsuit in substance and procedurally so that it would be quite enforceable in Japan. Since the contract in question was voluntarily signed in the U.S. with Counsel present and signing for both parties and because it specifically stated within the contract that controlling law was the U.S., any breach action more or less HAD to be decided in the U.S. in regards to jurisdiction and venue. It is just like any contract in Nashville between Bridgetone USA and Nissan USA, both of whose HQ’s are here in Nashville. Noriko was served properly via the Supreme Court of Japan process service. So she had notice, and we served the suit, with Japanese translation, under strict adherence to Japan’s civil code standards for due process and the Hague convention on service of process. Not only did she have notice, but she replied to the suit. So there is explicit proof of notice and service and an opportunity to answer (and an actual reply). Furthermore, as to the damages and their applicability under Japanese law, the large number here is misleading in the manner in which it has been written about in the press (I suppose for purposes of selling ads through drama). There were actually 3 separate damages orders (judgments) with 3 separate Court Order documents. The press just added them all up to get to $6.1M. The biggest Order of the 3 is is from a claim with me as Next Best Friend for the benefit of the children. That is not for my benefit and has nothing to do with the contract. Even this judgment *only* includes compensatory damages and *not* punitive damages. It was calculated as a wrongful death situation, as Mr. Ho suggests, just like in Japan, because I have ZERO contact with my kids, (just as though they are dead) but *only* on a per diem basis which ended upon their age of majority in Japan (20) and discounted during the teenage years, because consortium is obviously less and less as kids get older between a father and a child. So this should please HO’s sensibilities too. One must remember that in the U.S., as in Japan, they look to the net worth and educational level of the parents do determine a likely value of a life over time for kids. Kind of sick, but that’s the way both countries put a number on it in court. In my case, this works to increase the damages because of what Noriko and I had in our estates and what I was shown to be capable of earning. Now before you get all jealous and ornery, understand that my imputed income also worked against me in the divorce, causing me to pay over $5,500 per month *after taxes* from my income, of which I actually had none as a law student, so it came out of my assets. And I was totally OK with that so long as I could see my kids. Probably was going to send me into chapter 7 but that also was OK with me, even though support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

    The Contract breach is a separate matter and that award is $835,000 which includes legal fees for having to go to court to enforce the contract. That is a term of the contract itself so it was not a fickle addition by the judge. There is nothing punitive about it. And since Noriko has received much more than $800K from the agreement she breached, plus interest, and has entirely breached, this particular Order is not so strange even under Japanese standards for restitution and remedies in contract law. Japanese courts have also awarded liquidated damages to Japanese ex-spouses who breach visitation agreements so there is even local precedent. So, for the contract breach suit, 1. there was notice, 2. there was a reply indicating notice and 3. the order does not have any punitive element. and 4. There is local precedent. If this is not enforced, then it will be problematic precedent for Japanese companies seeking comity and enforcement under their contract breach awards when they try to enforce them in U.S. courts. Such a ruling on lack of comity for Japanese equity orders issued in Washington State just a few weeks ago. That would really suck for Japanese companies that insist on Japan as the forum for agreement disputes. Which is almost all of them. I know I did that in my contracts when I ran a Japanese company… Mind you, the Japanese Foreign Minister, under questioning in a Japanese Upper House judicial committee hearing last Friday afternoon in Japan stated quite clearly that HE felt that the order was reasonable (and he was not even referring to the contract breach portion!) You can see that here: So, Mr. Ho, I guess some Japanese people disagree with you about this being silly or over-the-top. Like a high ranking and highly educated Diet member, for example, who consulted with Homusho and Gaimusho bureaucrats before answering this prepared question in an official Diet Session, I can only assume.

  • Christopher says:

    Oh one more little factoid that never made it into the press. Even though Tokyo Ohta-ku rejected registering our divorce contract via my attorney even after numerous requests because it stipulated joint custody, Noriko was able ENTER THE TN DIVORCE AGREEMENT IN JAPAN through her contacts in the Yanagawa ward office. And here’s the kicker : NORIKO HERSELF (!) submitted this koseki to the court in TN as proof thereof!

    So for the voyeurs out there wondering about this, yes, the divorce is indeed registered in Japan, stipulating joint custody of the kids AND recognizing Tennessee as the place of contract and jurisdiction on the koseki for the kids, effective as of the date of the divorce in TN, contrary to some media reports. It says clearly that the petitioner to enter the contract as valid is Noriko and that it is signed and entered by the mayor of Yanagawa (and recorded at Ohta-ku in Tokyo), indicating that the GoJ also finds it to be a valid contract.

    So, Japanese law and Noriko (personally) have both freely and voluntarily given the contract the same legal status as any gouririkonnkeiyaku in Japan except that Tennessee courts have officially been given jurisdiction over the agreement on paper and shinken is explicitly given to both of us, just the way it is written for married couples, which is not technically possible in a purely Japanese agreed divorce agreement. Not that the custody or visitation aspects are enforceable in any way; which is at the cusp of the problem. Which leads to another question. Isn’t it totally f’d up (Debito’s words) to have joint custody on paper and not be able to get even so much as a phone call with one’s flesh and blood kids? Alice in Wonderland would be a charitable view of the rule of law in Japan in such matters. Nothing is impassible, eh? LOL. Well, not exactly laughing, to be completely honest…

  • Christopher, nice to hear from you. So, you are confident that Japanese court will recognize the Tennessee court order, while I am confident it will be turned down due to excessive amount. As you will be filling it for recognition in Japan, we will see who was right in a couple of months.

    As you know, koseki does not have finality. If a clerk at Yanagawa city office screwed up the record, such record does not have any legal power. The case has a couple of interesting issues, because you have Japanese nationality. While governing law of divorce is the law of habitual residence of the couple, the governing law of custody is law of nationality of the child under Japanese conflict of law system. Though the children may have dual nationality, since all the family members have Japanese nationality in common, the governing law will be laws of Japan, if you bring the case to Japan. If that is the case, joint custody may not be allowed here, and clerk at ohta-ku is better informed than those in Yanagawa.

    By the way, does you ex-wife have US citizenship? If not, with what visa did she enter Tennessee?

  • bornagain says:

    “By the way, does you wife have US citizenship? If not, with what visa did she enter Tennessee?”

    Its a good question and one I have found puzzeling from the get go. Savioe seems to hold both US and Japanese citizenship. Under what legal authority did Noriko enter the US? If Savoie is Japanese, is he elligilbe to apply for a visa for his wife? I have come across several who are holding this dual national type of status. I find it very strange that the Japanese gov has not pursued these cases and some of these same people go after debito for surrendering his US passport.

    — Personally, I say it’s no government’s business what other citizenships their citizens have. People should be able to have single or multiple as they wish. So let’s not go down this road in this blog entry. It’s generally irrelevant to the case of child abduction and custody anyway.

  • Christopher says:

    I was not arguing that it is a valid custody agreement. Japanese custody and visitation agreements are absolutely useless because enforcement is completely voluntary as to specific equitable performance (but they are enforceable in law). It is a total sham and it is the most idiotic custody system in the world at present, full stop. I agree that the koseki is not worth the paper it is printed on. That is why I am not trying to enforce custody in Japan (impossible and even if technically possible to request, racism, xenophobia and gender bias prevent any kind of fair shake… your posts here are quite indicative of the chauvinism and insularity that exist), so your comments regarding custody are irrelevant. But one does not file a civil contract judgment action in family court so your jurisdiction arguments are also irrelevant. The only reason the Yanagawa filing is relevant at the enforcement stage is that it shows Noriko’s intent to register the same contract as a valid agreement, without regard to its enforceability in regards to underlying custody issues.

    A contract is a contract is a contract, on the other hand. Contracts are enforceable in Japan. Try renting a flat without one. Or try breaching a car lease and see what happens. Even foreign contracts between two Japanese private parties are enforceable. Japanese courts are not able even to look into the merits at the enforcement stage because of the Hague treaty on civil judgments. There is no such thing as an excessive contract award. The total value you can get back in a breach action is the value of the contract, when the party is in total breach, as in this case. (Well, for the lawyers out there, I know that is not completely true when one counts disgorgement, etc. but this explanation should suffice for laymen, like Mr. HO) As to the value of a contract, well, that depends on what one is buying. One cannot argue that if you put a 100% deposit on a custom Ferrari in Japan that is not delivered as requested, that rescission of that contract’s value is excessive compared to the value of a Toyota Corolla. As to the enforceability of contracts between two Japanese individuals via a US court order in Japan, read the case below. The original Japanese makes it much clearer but I posted the English version here for our audience.

    You may indeed be correct that Japanese courts *could* change their current policy and refuse to enforce U.S. contract judgments between two private party Japanese citizens out of public policy. In which case there is clearly no more comity. Which would be a great affirmative defense to avoid any Japanese contract judgment enforcement (domestication) Stateside. So maybe you are arguing it is OK for a party to breach a Japanese divorce and visitation agreement and take the money from the settlement to the States with a work visa and then refuse to perform? Or perhaps it is OK for American companies to breach with their Japanese customers and avoid a judgment because of comity? Be careful what you wish for just to prove me wrong and/or defend Noriko. This is a much bigger legal issue than a simple divorce and custody battle. I would love the opportunity to be defense counsel for someone someday if they do as you suggest to me. 😉 This is a marathon, not a sprint. And as Mohammad Ali once said, “Never get in a fight with someone who has less to lose than you do.”

    This will be my last post here on this thread. Enjoy.

  • Courage, Savoie ! Japaneses are stubborn, but they fail in front of somebody really decided to reach his aim. That’s what has been seen in the case of the poor english teacher Hawker killed by Ichihashi, a maniac who was after that on the run for two years. Without the superb will of Hawker’s parents, I’m sure the japanese police would have give up. The trial of Ichihashi is clearly the victory of the Hawker family who went several times to remind the police to do their work. They spoke to the medias, it upsetted the police and a lot of japaneses who named them “shitsukoi”… Nice people ! Their daughtey had been raped, tortured and killed, but this nice english familiy was “shitsukoi”. Damn !

    By the way, I remark you are a real gentleman, because there are tons of people here in Japan, who would have paid some yakuzas to “reach an agreement” in no time. That’s not you, congratulation.


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