Wife fined for taking children to Japan

Kyodo

A Tennessee court on Monday ordered the Japanese ex-wife of an American man to pay $6.1 million (about ¥489 million) in damages for violating their divorce agreement granting him regularly access to their two children.

Christopher Savoie, 40, of Tennessee will however have to file a lawsuit with a Japanese court if he is to collect the damages from his former wife, who is now living in Japan.

Savoie said money was not the purpose of the suit with the court in Tennessee’s Williamson County and that he only wants to see his children.

Savoie drew attention in Japan and the United States in September 2009 when he attempted to reclaim the two children in Fukuoka Prefecture.

He was arrested by Japanese police on suspicion of kidnapping minors, but prosecutors didn’t file criminal charges against him. His former wife had taken their children to Japan.

The United States has pressed Japan to work toward resolving the international child custody issue that has prevented American parents from seeing their children taken to Japan as a result of failed marriages.

In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on Japan to institute legal remedies immediately to child custody practices that have long dogged failed marriages between U.S. and Japanese citizens and led hundreds of American parents to level accusations of kidnapping against their former Japanese spouses.

Currently, the central government is working on drafting bills to join an international treaty that deals with cross-border child custody disputes, known as the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, government sources said last month.

A stumbling block to signing the convention earlier has been Japan’s practice of overwhelmingly awarding mothers sole custody of children in divorce cases, as opposed to the U.S. courts, which frequently award joint custody.

In the U.S., if one divorced parent takes children overseas without the other’s consent, it is regarded as abduction.

In the September 2010 resolution, the U.S. House said 300 children of U.S. nationality were taken to Japan illegally since 1994.