Mainichi & Yomiuri: Japanese ex-wife arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of abducting child from custodial father


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Hi Blog.  Here’s some good news for Left-Behind Parents.  The Americans are (unusually, according to the Mainichi and Yomiuri below) enforcing their arrest warrants against Japanese child abductors.  In this case, against a Japanese woman who reportedly absconded with the kid off to Japan and, despite a US court awarding the father custody, then used the time-honored tactic of abducting the kid anyway and getting a Japanese court to award her the kid instead regardless (with a gracious 30-day per year visitation allowed; thanks a heap).  Then she carelessly decided to have her cake and eat it too, by coming back to the US to renew her Green Card, whereupon the authorities honored the arrest warrant against her, leaving the kid in limbo with the grandparents in Japan.

Not an unusual story (especially since the Japanese media once again refuses to use the word “abduction” in conjunction with any of this — just “taking without permission”; sounds much better), except that the Americans are now finally taking action regarding child abductions to Japan, honoring court decisions despite Japan’s vehemently guarding its safe-haven status for international child abduction.

Let’s see how the Japanese media further spins this; I doubt it’ll run against Team-Japanism.  But already the editorial slant in the articles below is that signing the Hague Treaty will (somehow) prevent this, in defiance of all the Japanese safe-haveners that want to either not sign it, or caveat it with DV provisions into meaninglessness.

Anyway, throw the book at her.  This sort of thing has gone on long enough.  Arudou Debito


Japanese ex-wife arrested in U.S. on accusation of making off with child
(Mainichi Japan) October 27, 2011, Courtesy EK

A Japanese woman has been arrested in Hawaii on accusations she took her 9-year-old daughter with a Nicaraguan ex-husband back to Japan without permission, it has been learned.

The 43-year-old Japanese mother and her 39-year-old ex-husband, who lives in the United States, have custody disputes over the child ongoing in both Japan and the U.S. The Foreign Ministry says that it is highly unusual for a Japanese national to be arrested abroad during a custody dispute with a foreign ex-partner.

According to legal officials and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the woman married and bore the child in February 2002. She lived in the state of Wisconsin in the U.S., but in February 2008 she returned to Japan with the child. In June 2009 her divorce was finalized, but the father was given custody rights.

The woman went to court in Japan to have the custody rights changed, and in March this year the court awarded them to the woman, giving the father just 30 visitation days a year in the U.S. Both sides immediately appealed the ruling, and the case is now being deliberated at the Osaka High Court.

The woman flew to Honolulu on April 7, 2011 local time to renew her permanent U.S. resident status. However, an arrest warrant for the woman was on issue from Wisconsin authorities for violating the father’s custody rights by taking the child to Japan without permission, and the woman was arrested by Hawaii authorities. She remains in custody, and a trial is ongoing in Wisconsin. Prosecutors suggested a plea bargain where she would be given a suspended sentence in exchange for returning the child, who currently lives with the woman’s grandparents in Japan, but she has refused and maintains her innocence.

The ex-husband has reportedly said that if the woman will return the child, he does not want her held further, and he wants the child to be able to meet both parents. A lawyer for the woman, however, says that she fears that if she returns the child once, the child will never be able to come back to Japan.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, records of Japanese international marriages since 1992 show a peak in 2006 of around 44,700, after which they have been declining, with around 32,000 in 2010. On the other hand, Japanese international divorces have increased, peaking at about 19,400 in 2009. International divorces are accompanied by unique problems like differences in national law, children’s nationality and parental custody rights, and people leaving the relevant countries.

Professor Takao Tanase of Chuo University’s law school says, “The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’s primary objective is to get the child in such disputes returned to the country they were taken from, and therefore civil-level procedures to return the child are prioritized. If the child is returned, criminal legal action is often not pursued. If Japan joins the convention, I think that there will be fewer cases that lead to arrests.”



The original Japanese story

国際離婚:親権妨害容疑 米国で日本人女性逮捕
毎日新聞 2011年10月27日 15時0分 更新:10月27日 17時0分








中央大法科大学院の棚瀬孝雄教授(法社会学)の話 ハーグ条約は、原則として子供をとりあえず元の国に返すことが第一目的で、民事的な返還手続きが優先される。子が返りさえすれば刑事訴追しないことが多い。加盟すれば、逮捕まで発展するような事案は少なくなると思う。【岡奈津希】




読売新聞 2011年10月27日(木)15時41分配信 Courtesy of Getchan









11 comments on “Mainichi & Yomiuri: Japanese ex-wife arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of abducting child from custodial father

  • Hmmm. Complicated case. What is gained by arresting her? The father had 30 days per year visiting rights. Now this will be moot. The mother now might spend jail time (how many years?) The child now has lost both, mom and dad. I think the dad has done a real heroic act by not asking for the mother’s immediate release. Now there are two hostages and the person suffering most is the kid.

    — As always. It is tragic in that sense. However, at least this way more people will know that there is a systemic problem with parent(s) not following legal decisions, and ultimately fewer kids might be put in this position in future.

  • Maxabillion Slartibartfast says:

    @Olaf, Sometimes you just have to show the other side that its bad behavior has consequences, instead of playing nice while they walk all over you. So the US is saying here, “Well, you can say there’s no way to return abducted kids to their US parents, but guess what? There’s also no way to stop Japanese abductors from being arrested in the US.”

    I consider such a policy of arrests (if in fact it is a policy) to be a form of gaiatsu that may convince Japan to knock off its shenanigans and actually do something about child abduction.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    There’s always been a problem with one side of parent(s) who ignore(s) the legal system and decisions by throwing a culture/gender card to claim as an innocent victim of DV. But, what is worse is such problematic parent(s) have/has the audacity to claim off permanent residency of a country after the legal decisions. I can’t have sympathy with this Japanese woman. She deserves what she gets. Leaving the country before the divorce trial is on, and attempting to seek residency in the country she once abandoned for her life convenience is tantamount to duplicity. The US Department of Justice really needs to step up the legal framework to prevent an attempted child abduction within the nation.

  • Such arrests may be emotionally welcome, but will ultimately prove to be not effective.

    Japan should sign the treaty.

    Addressing such a complex issue through a process of arrests will prove to be an ineffective manner of dealing with the question.

    This is because arrests of children and their being made parentless strike emotional fibres.

    One has but to remember the USA case involving Elian Gonzalez

    The USA ultimately took the right action, but the case is still deeply controversial among those in Miami.

    Thus, rather than an adjudicatory solution (which will never happen because in most instances there will be no court action) the proper resolution is by international agreement.

    Then, the duties and roles of all parties will be clear.

    At the present, if a mixed citizenship child is involved, there are no clear rules and thus the divorces couple will often act vengefully.

  • Such arrests have been proven quite effective in returning children, *including* the case of Elian Gonzales. Such arrests also serve as a fantastic deterrent mechanism and thus are critical in preventing future abductions. The opposition of Miami based Cuban refugees has much more to do with anti-Castro political sentiment than anything to do with child welfare. Elian is well-adjusted and did very well in school in Cuba. More importantly, he has been quoted in the press as being truly grateful that he was able to grow up with his Dad due to the resolute actions of the U.S. government. The truth is that kidnapping and deprivation of visitation against standing court orders and laws are criminal acts against children in most countries, requiring the equivalents in sentencing guidelines to physical child abuse and certain forms of child sexual abuse. All are felonies against children, as they should be. These are NOT “custody disputes” any more than grand theft auto is properly termed an “ownership dispute”. Japan is the only messed up country I am aware of where an initial abduction and denial of contact with the other parent is officially sanctioned (and encouraged) and subsequent retrieval or unwanted visitation by a non-abducting spouse, even with the backing of standing court orders, is punished. There already *are* clear rules in most civilized countries against such hideous conduct. Japan does not have a modern, compassionate and functional family law system or legal regime to prevent and punish initial abductions by relatives and parents. Japan is thus far worse for the child’s best interest after divorce than the majority of third world countries. Japanese legal scholars agree. See this link from a female legal scholar at Kyushu University:

    If I were Japanese (oh yeah, I guess I am) I would stop acting so embarrassingly defensively about the current stupid, barbaric and indefensible Japanese system, as if it has merits— in a transparent and ultimately futile effort to save face — and just get with the program. Getting with the program would include among other reforms, the recognition and *enforcement* of foreign custody and visitation orders, criminalization of the initial abductions against such orders and the sending in of Police with tazers, Glocks and AR-15s in hand, as necessary, when the criminal abductors (even if parents or relatives of the child) do not comply with return or visitation orders. That is how it works in most of the civilized world and it works effectively. Just ask Elian.

  • Arresting the japaneses abductors is not enough. I think more severe measure should be taking agaist japan to make them sign the hague convention treaty.
    Anyway, even if japan sign it, there is still loopholes in the hague convention law.
    i am a victim of this and i want people to know this.
    I manage to win a child visitation right of once a month.
    the abductor had subdue and threaten to bully my child more if she dont do or act as the abductor said.
    the instruction is; As soon as you set your eyes on your father, start crying. tell your father you dont want to see soon as she does that, the court said the child is not comfortable with the father as such, the court cant force her to see her father. And that was the last time i saw my child……..!
    does the hague convention treaty has solution to this?
    i am still in japan now trying to sought thing out.

  • — NZ Herald on another child abduction case in Japan:

    The plight of Japan’s left-behind parents
    By Simon Scott, courtesy of A (excerpt)
    NZ Herald 9:06 AM Saturday Oct 29, 2011

    On April 3 last year Alex Kahney’s wife, Keiko Ono, took their two daughters, Selene, 9, and Cale, 7, and abruptly moved out of the family home in the Denenchofu, the up-market Tokyo suburb where they had lived for more than seven years.

    Naturally Alex, who works as a medical researcher and writer, was worried about getting access to his children, but his wife reassured him it would not be a problem.

    “She said to me: ‘Don’t worry, you will always be able to see them’.”

    But the following Friday his wife cancelled a camping trip he had arranged to go on with his daughters and after she failed to telephone on the Sunday as promised to arrange a visit with the kids that day, Alex become worried.

    He went to the police and asked them to talk to his wife and remind her that he still had legal custody of the children.

    The response he got came as a shock.

    “A detective told me my wife is within her rights to take the kids wherever she wants and if she doesn’t want me to speak to them again that is hard luck.

    “And I said: ‘Well, in that case I will just go around there and get them back – I’ll take them home.’

    “Then he started getting angry and said: ‘You can’t do it – she can’.”

    “This was the beginning of the nightmare.

    “This was when I learned Japan is a black hole for child abduction.”

    The police also warned Alex that if he tried to take his children back he would be arrested…

    Rest at

  • JIb Halyard says:

    Excellent news. Good to see a Western country finally stand up for one of its citizens. Hopefully this is the start of a trend.
    It would also be nice if some of these perps could be brought to book through extradition treaties with third countries, should they ever try to travel anywhere else outside of Japan.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    “Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

    Six nations press on Hague treaty


    The U.S., Canada and four other countries have jointly urged Japan to take legal steps to ensure that parents who have removed their children after the failure of international marriages will not be preferentially treated contrary to an international treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, government officials said Tuesday.

    The six countries — including Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand — submitted the joint statement in writing, the officials said. It was part of the Justice and Foreign ministries’ one-month public consultation from the end of September on interim proposals for domestic legislation prior to Japan’s accession to the treaty.

    The rare move reflects the countries’ strong interest in Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty is designed to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence.

    The envisioned domestic legislation would indicate that children will not have to be returned when the parent has fled an abusive spouse or could face criminal prosecution, presumably in connection with the abduction of offspring, in his or her country of habitual residence.

    The joint opinion, submitted by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on behalf of the six governments, states that the interim proposals deviate from the convention, which allows the return of children to be rejected only when they could face a “grave risk” if returned, making spousal violence and other reasons inapplicable, the officials said.”

  • Debito, this was on the News last night as I was getting ready for bed. As you said the word kidnapping was strategically left out. The Japanese news media is camped out around her detention facility. The even interviewed the father, surprisingly in a positive light. However, the mother is claiming DV. Of course we can never know the whole truth but this father looks genuinely concerned for his daughters well being. (keeping her room exactly the way it ways, complete with unfinished puzzle) A Japanese lawyer was asked to comment on the Hague who said it could be used as a safe haven for DV case so it is not in Japan’s best interest to sign.

    My question is what happened to due process? Have you mentioned on here why courts are so quick to award mothers sole custody?


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