Friday, October 9, 2009
(Excerpt from interview with Japan's Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama)
"JTH: On this topic, as you know Japan is the only G8 nation not to ratify the Hague Convention. There has been talk of doing so in 2010. Will the DPJ do so?
YH: Yes we will and we have pushed for this but have been fought back by the LDP continually on this topic. I understand the issue and we have been briefed on the many cases involving Japanese spouses violating other nation’s court orders and brining the child to Japan. So, yes we support this effort to ratify the Hague convention.
Daniel: I have some questions from the fathers affected, and photos of their children. Would you please look at them?
(Mr. Hatoyama reads the questions and looks at the photos)
YH: May I keep these?
Daniel: Please do.
YH: My heart goes out to the fathers, and mothers. There are cases of mothers as well. We support ratifying and enforcing the Hague Convention, and involved in this is a sweeping change to allow divorced fathers visitation of their children. That issue affects not just foreign national fathers, but Japanese fathers as well. I believe in this change.
We have been condemned by the USA, Canada, the UK, and France over this and I firmly believe we need to change things as I mentioned. The effect will be Japan coming into this century. We need to be clear though, these changes will take time. A very strong cultural change shifting from maternal primacy over the children is needed as well. I think we have already seen the beginning of this, but a change in laws is not the sole solution.
JTH: Does this include abiding by the court orders of other nations?
YH: It does, as long there is reciprocal agreement to recognize Japanese court orders.
JTH: As you know no child has been returned to a foreign parent even with a foreign jurisdiction awarding custody before the abduction, do you support efforts to change this?
YH: Again, as long as Japanese courts are reciprocated then yes. Again, I need to be clear that changes of this nature will take time. Do I support it? Yes, but the changes to the legal and cultural structures will take time. Will there be opposition? I am sure, but things need to change not just to improve Japan’s image, but for the sake of justice. That really is all I can say."
He sounds like a very caring, decent man. I hope he can get the support to make changes that will allow families like ours to be together again, Chloe. And I hope it won't take too long.
I miss you, Chloe. Love you.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I can't believe it's been over a year since I wrote to you here. I got an email from a very nice lady named Katherine who sends you and all of us her best. Her mail sort of nudged me out of a "safer place" to get back here and write again. I've never met Katherine, but sometimes it's very good to know that we're not doing all of this alone and that there are wonderful people all over the world who care about others.
You're 4 years old now and in the newest pictures we've received, you look so big! And, as ever, so beautiful. =) It was sad to miss yet another birthday, but I hope you got the birthday present I sent. Your Mama said you did, but it's a little confusing because the things I sent at Easter and St. Patrick's Day came back to us undelivered, as did some of the things your Papa sent to you.
A lot of what your Mama does confuses me, little one. For awhile I thought that maybe she and Papa could work out a way for you to come back to visit. By the time you see this (if ever), you probably won't remember the day a few months ago that Mama called and let me talk to you on the phone, but I thought things were finally getting better. Your Mama sent me pictures so I could see how big you're getting and we actually seemed to be communicating. But the last email I got from Mama was very angry; I'm not sure why, she didn't say. Now she says you and she are moving and that we'll never see you again. It's like going right back to the beginning.
In any case, I'll still be sending things, so don't worry. I might have to send them to your other grandma's house, but hopefully she'll get them to you.
Papa misses you every single day. We don't talk about it as much as we used to because sometimes it feels like we've talked about everything there is to talk about. We don't have as much money as some of the other people who are going through this, so we can't afford a lot of lawyers and representatives as some others. But we just read a story on CNN about a Papa who went to jail in Japan because he tried to bring his little ones home, and it seems that his lawyers aren't having much more luck than we've had without. But just because we can't bring you home right now, that doesn't mean we've given up on you or that we love and miss you any less. We won't ever give up, Chloe.
It's October 1st, baby. =) I'll be sending you something for Halloween soon. But in the meantime, Grandpa says he loves you, Gracie says Hi (well....Gracie says "Woof! Woof! ;) and Dinky says that if you see any pictures of black cats this Halloween, he wants you to remember that he was the original. =P
I love you, Chloe.
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Had this custody drama played out in the United States, Christopher Savoie might be considered a hero -- snatching his two little children back from an ex-wife who defied the law and ran off with them.
A Tennessee court awarded Christopher Savoie custody of his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.
But this story unfolds 7,000 miles away in the Japanese city of Fukuoka, where the U.S. legal system holds no sway.
And here, Savoie sits in jail, charged with the abduction of minors. And his Japanese ex-wife -- a fugitive in the United States for taking his children from Tennessee -- is considered the victim.
"Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S., but on this issue, our points of view differ," the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Tuesday. "Our two nations approach divorce and child-rearing differently. Parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan."
The story begins in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee, with the January divorce of Savoie from his first wife, Noriko, a Japanese native. The ex-wife had agreed to live in Franklin to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.
Savoie in March requested a restraining order to prevent his ex-wife from taking the children to Japan, saying she had threatened to do so, according to court documents obtained by CNN affiliate WTVF and posted on the station's Web site. A temporary order was issued, but then lifted following a hearing.
"If Mother fails to return to Tennessee [after summer vacation] with the children following her visitation period, she could lose her alimony, child support and education fund, which is added assurance to Father that she is going to return with the children," Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin III noted in his order on the matter.
After that ruling, Christopher Savoie tried to have Martin recuse himself, as he was a mediator in the case prior to becoming a judge, said Marlene Eskind Moses, Noriko Savoie's attorney. But that request was denied, as Savoie earlier said he had no concerns about Martin hearing the matter.
Following the summer trip, Noriko Savoie did return to the United States, and Christopher Savoie then took the children on a vacation, returning them to his ex-wife, his attorney, Paul Bruno, told CNN. Watch latest report on Savoie's situation »
But days later, on the first day of classes for 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca, the school called Savoie to say his children hadn't arrived, Bruno said. Police checked Noriko Savoie's home and did not find the children.
Concerned, Savoie called his ex-wife's father in Japan, who told him not to worry.
"I said, 'What do you mean -- don't worry? They weren't at school.' 'Oh, don't worry, they are here,' " Savoie recounted the conversation to CNN affiliate WTVF earlier this month. "I said, 'They are what, they are what, they are in Japan?' "
The very thing that Savoie had predicted in court papers had happened -- his wife had taken their children to Japan and showed no signs of returning, Bruno said.
After Noriko Savoie took the children to Japan, Savoie filed for and received full custody of the children, Bruno said. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for his ex-wife, the television station reported.
But there was a major hitch: Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction. The international agreement standardizes laws, but only among participating countries.
So while Japanese civil law stresses that courts resolve custody issues based on the best interest of the children without regard to either parent's nationality, foreign parents have had little success in regaining custody.
Japanese family law follows a tradition of sole custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and lifelong break from the children.
In court documents filed in May, Noriko Savoie denied that she was failing to abide by the terms of the couple's court-approved parenting plan or ignoring court-appointed parent coordinators. She added she was "concerned about the stability of Father, his extreme antagonism towards Mother and the effect of this on the children."
Noriko Savoie could not be reached by CNN for comment.
Bruno said he helped Christopher Savoie pursue legal remedies to recover the children, working with police, the FBI and the State Department.
"We tried to do what we could to get the kids back," Bruno said. "There was not a whole lot we can do."
"Our court system failed him," said Diane Marshall, a court-appointed parent coordinator who helped Savoie make decisions about the children. "It's just a mess."
But Moses, Noriko Savoie's attorney, told CNN that the children's father had other legal options.
The International Association for Parent-Child Reunion, formed in Japan this year, claims to know of more than 100 cases of children abducted by non-custodial Japanese parents.
And the U.S. State Department says it is not aware of a single case in which a child taken from the United States to Japan has been ordered returned by Japanese courts -- even when the left-behind parent has a U.S. custody decree.
Facing such statistics and the possibility of never seeing his kids again, Savoie took matters into his own hands.
He flew to Fukuoka. And as his ex-wife walked the two children to school Monday morning, Savoie drove alongside them.
He grabbed the kids, forced them into his car, and drove off, said police in Fukuoka. Watch CNN panel discuss Savoie's legal options »
He headed for the U.S. consulate in that city to try to obtain passports for Isaac and Rebecca.
But Japanese police, alerted by Savoie's ex-wife, were waiting.
Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said she heard a scuffle outside the doors of the consulate. She ran up and saw a little girl and a man, whom police were trying to talk to.
Eventually, police took Savoie away, charging him with the abduction of minors -- a charge that carries a jail sentence of up to five years.
Bruno said if the situation were reversed and a Japanese parent had abducted a Japanese child and fled to America, U.S. courts would "correct that problem, because it's a crime."
He said he has "concerns about Japan ... providing a place for people to abduct children and go to. The parent left behind does not have recourse." He added, "the president and his administration should do something to correct this."
The consulate met with Savoie on Monday and Tuesday, Taylor said. It has provided him with a list of local lawyers and said it will continue to assist.
Meanwhile, the international diplomacy continues. During the first official talks between the United States and Japan's new government, the issue of parental abductions was raised.But it is anybody's guess what happens next to Savoie, who sits in a jail cell.