Savoie returns to U.S. to work out next move

by Minoru Matsutani

Christopher Savoie, an American freed Thursday from a Fukuoka Prefecture jail after being arrested for allegedly trying to abduct his children to regain custody, flew back to the United States Friday after promising prosecutors he would not contact his kids without going through lawyers, his lawyer said Friday.

“I recommended to him to go back home, take a rest and take the next actions — and he agreed,” said lawyer Tadashi Yoshino, who represented the Tennessee native during his incarceration.

Asked what Savoie’s next actions should be, he said it could be to consult a family court in Tennessee to make custodial conditions more favorable to his former wife, Noriko, so she can keep from breaking the arrangement this time, or sue for custody in a Fukuoka family court.

His ex-wife broke a custodial arrangement in Tennessee by taking the children to Fukuoka in August and not returning them to the state. Following this, the court granted Savoie full custody and issued an arrest warrant for his former wife to local police.

As far as a custodial arrangement mediated by a Tennessee family court goes, she has to bring the children to Tennessee, Yoshino said.

“If she cannot keep her promise, he can present her with a new offer,” said Yoshino, who often handles cases at the request of foreign consulates in Fukuoka.

Fukuoka prosecutors freed Savoie after he admitted to kidnapping, showed remorse and promised not to commit a similar offense or directly contact his children, Yoshino said.

Savoie, 38, was arrested on suspicion of putting his two children in a car and trying to take them to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka when they were walking to school with his former wife on Sept. 28.

In reality, Savoie has few legal options to gain periodic visitation with his kids because the Civil Code stipulates only one of the divorced parents gets parental rights, and family courts usually award sole custody to the parent with parental rights.

The family of four lived in Japan from 2001 to 2008, before moving to Tennessee. The pair divorced in January. Savoie remarried in February.