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Custody case a test for Japan, says U.S. father seeking access to girl held by grandmother

by

Staff Writer

A U.S. man seeking access to his daughter said Monday that the case is an opportunity for Japan to prove to the world it no longer tolerates parental child abduction.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for denying access to his 13-year-old daughter.

His former wife left with the child in 2003, at the age of 9 months, after their marriage failed. The woman committed suicide four years later.

Toland said his situation would amount to a “felony crime” in other countries with up-to-date family laws.

“In Japan, this abduction by a nonparent is not only accepted, but it is condoned. I’m the only parent in the world to (my daughter),” Toland said, who is in Japan for the first time since the trial at the Tokyo Family Court kicked off in July.

Toland said if the case is resolved it would demonstrate to the world that Japan is turning over a new leaf after years of notoriety as a “safe haven” for parental child abduction. If his daughter is not returned to him, he said, it will only alienate the nation further.

Japan joined The Hague Convention on cross-border parental child kidnapping in 2014. The pact does not apply in Toland’s case because the abduction was within Japan — Toland’s family was based in Yokohama at the time. In addition to this, the convention cannot be applied retroactively.

“How can we expect Japan to ever resolve more complicated divorce, child custody issues if it cannot even resolve this very straightforward case, which does not involve divorce and where one parent is deceased and the nonparent is withholding a child above the parent who wants to care for her?” he said.

The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

Given that the separation occurred when the girl was a baby, this suggests that her attitude was learned from others and that she is under a misapprehension of what her father is really like, Ueno said.

“In cases this like, Japanese courts have immaturely decided that children shouldn’t be returned to parents, oblivious to the fact that they’re bound to suffer once becoming adults,” Ueno said.

  • Terry

    So why now? The mother died 9 years ago. This girl has never know, probably never seen, her father. Does she even speak English? If this is his first time in Japan he certainly isn’t going to be moving there to care for her.

    The time for this argument was when she was 4. Sending her off with a stranger to the US is insane.

    • simplethinking

      It isn’t just now.

      The father has been fighting since his daughter was abducted. He has battled in courts, testified in front of the US congress, advocated for legislation in the US to hold countries like Japan accountable, advocated for Japan to join the Hague, etc.

      It is only recently, after decades of resistance, that Japan finally joined the Hague treaty and, in theory at least, was supposed to pass legislation in order to comply with that treaty.

    • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

      It doesn’t sound like things have worked out very well for this girl, no matter what happens now. Generally speaking, the child can benefit from every relationship, including parents and grandparents, step parents, etc., whenever the adult cares about the child.

      The best thing would be to allow the child to maintain at least a minimum amount of contact with each, and to leave open future possibilities. But this is something very difficult to do when the adults involved hate each other.

      Still, the courts could try to mandate visits, possibly monitored visits. (The father could hire a translator if he doesn’t speak Japanese). Then, it would be possible for this father to tell the girl that she is always welcome – an important message for her to know – just knowing it would, in general, be beneficial.

    • blondein_tokyo

      You are only speculating. It’s illogical to draw an absolute conclusion on speculation.

    • Toolonggone

      Obviously, you didn’t bother read the article.

  • Eric

    There is still absolutely nothing about this in the Japanese-language press.

  • kimpatsu

    The reality is that the Japanese courts are racist, and presume that any Japanese is necessarily a superior parent or guardian to non-Japanese. Until the bench is replaced with more liberal judges, this problem will remain endemic.

    • wellabove

      Tell that to the United States courts: the Maryland Courts, in 2012, ruled against Toland’s appeal and confirming prior (U.S. and Japanese) judgements, ruling against a white American male.

    • wellabove

      Tell that to the United States courts: the Maryland Courts, in 2012, ruled against Toland’s appeal and confirming prior (U.S. and Japanese) judgements, ruling against a white American male.

    • wellabove

      Tell that to the United States courts: the Maryland Courts, in 2012, ruled against Toland’s appeal and confirming prior (U.S. and Japanese) judgements, ruling against a white American male.

    • wellabove

      Tell that to the United States courts: the Maryland Courts, in 2012, ruled against Toland’s appeal and confirming prior (U.S. and Japanese) judgements, ruling against a white American male.

  • bwprager123

    Paul Toland’s and his daughter’s rights have been violated by the Japanese state for nearly 10 years now. Life for children in Japan before the Hague Convention and after the Hague Convention is unchanged. Children have no rights, and no defense under the law. Psychopathy in this area therefore proliferates. We will see and hear of lots of hand-wringing about how hard Japanese officials are working to change this, but we must read the fine print; this earnestness is all public gesture, and free of substance. It needs stressing: this is due to the absence of and resistance to protections for the rights of children and parents under Japanese law, and because the United States and Japan have tolerated and condoned Japanese child abduction at every stage of the US-Japanese alliance – from San Francisco, 1951, to the renewed treaties of 1960, 1970, and beyond. Japanese state officials in the courts, Justice and Foreign Affairs Ministries, etc have avoided responsibility by positioning the kidnapping of children as a private issue between relatives.The same and similar means were used to keep Japanese orphans out of Japan after the war and colonial-era occupation policies ended, despite best efforts of Chinese governments to issue the documents the children needed in order to return them home. The same or similar treatment was given to children born in Korea under Japanese colonial rule, when Japan was trying to turn Korea into a permanent Japanese settler colony. Children were then and still are denied the right to have rights, and despite the use of powerful state instruments (the koseki, etc) to manage and control and prevent bleed-through of rights to children, the Japanese state still claims that these matters are “private” matters beyond the scope of the rule of law of the state. It doesn’t take rocket science to see that this issue, which leaves 3 million Japanese children, from toddlers to teens, without any on-going relations with their parent, is due to a brutal exercise of Japanese state power for its own sake, jealously guarded by subordinate units of the state apparatus, and condoned, ever unopposed in any significant result-seeking manner, by the United States Departments of State and Defense in deference to Japan, in order to maintain in order the political strangulation that they impose on their favorite East Asian vassal.

  • wellabove

    The Hague Treaty is not about determining who has or who should have custody of a child. The Hague Treaty is about returning children to their home country when they have been removed without permission THEN having that home country decide custody etc under its laws.

    According to U.S. court documents (TOLAND v. FUTAGI, 2011, MD), the child was born in Japan, has Japanese citizenship, and has lived her entire life in Japan. She hasn’t even left Japan for a vacation.

    The Hague Convention does not apply here. One thing that Mr. Toland does not mention here is that not just Japanese courts, but U.S. courts have agreed with the interpretation of where his daughter’s home is too: he lost his appeal to establish his biological daughter’s home as America in Maryland court in 2012, and he lost his prior cases too.

  • wellabove

    The Hague Treaty is not about determining who has or who should have custody of a child. The Hague Treaty is about returning children to their home country when they have been removed without permission THEN having that home country decide custody etc under its laws.

    According to U.S. court documents (TOLAND v. FUTAGI, 2011, MD), the child was born in Japan, has Japanese citizenship, and has lived her entire life in Japan. She hasn’t even left Japan for a vacation.

    The Hague Convention does not apply here. One thing that Mr. Toland does not mention here is that not just Japanese courts, but U.S. courts have agreed with the interpretation of where his daughter’s home is too: he lost his appeal to establish his biological daughter’s home as America in Maryland court in 2012, and he lost his prior cases too.

  • wellabove

    The Hague Treaty is not about determining who has or who should have custody of a child. The Hague Treaty is about returning children to their home country when they have been removed without permission THEN having that home country decide custody etc under its laws.

    According to U.S. court documents (TOLAND v. FUTAGI, 2011, MD), the child was born in Japan, has Japanese citizenship, and has lived her entire life in Japan. She hasn’t even left Japan for a vacation.

    The Hague Convention does not apply here. One thing that Mr. Toland does not mention here is that not just Japanese courts, but U.S. courts have agreed with the interpretation of where his daughter’s home is too: he lost his appeal to establish his biological daughter’s home as America in Maryland court in 2012, and he lost his prior cases too.

  • Yuki

    I know a lot of people on here are Western men who can easily put themselves in this man’s shoes.

    For a moment, put yourself in the girl’s shoes. She’s lived in Japan practically her whole life, she only speaks that language, she has school, friends, and all the family she knows there. She understandably says that she wants to stay there.

    What do you do? Send her halfway around the world to live with a man she’s never met, who she can’t even speak to?
    Definitely not saying what the mom did was right, but if she doesn’t want to be with him he’s gonna have to deal with it.

  • Toolonggone

    It was pragmatic decision. The court did not touch on his visitation rights in a different soil–which many US courts have trouble dealing with.

  • mizuno

    Japanese court system failed for years for visitation rights and too difficult to reverse the situation suddenly now. It is both domestic and international incidents that the one of the parent who abducts first wins the custody rights. Therefore, too bad for Toland but nice try. Someone needs to beat the system as the system is collaborations of each and every actions and decisions made. Do NOT forget that children are the ones victimized for this crime by the Japanese family court system and the parent who has taken advantage of the system. Kids can absorb and accept the environment and circumstances without questioning whatever, wherever, whoever and however surrounding them. PAS is the term for adults who can not provide the proper environment supposedly able and not being able to activate the right because of those who stop them from from providing and accessing to their own children. No wonder it is not psychologically accepted term but that is nothing more than kidnapping and brainwashing them.

  • Andre Leonard

    The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

  • Andre Leonard

    The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

  • Andre Leonard

    The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

  • Andre Leonard

    The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

  • Andre Leonard

    The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

  • Andre Leonard

    The daughter has said in a statement submitted to the Tokyo Family Court that she does not wish to be reunited with her father, according to Akira Ueno, Toland’s lawyer.

  • Tim Johnston

    We all wish Paul the best luck in this case.

    His case has always been a tough one to consider.
    His wife committed suicide, Of course his young daughter should have been handed over to him by any country who considers the right of the child’s mental well being.

    The fact the Grandmother, Who by the way………Seems off her rocker!
    Hid Paul’s daughter from him for all those years, should be a criminal act.
    It’s a clear fact this child was bred to say the things the supposed article implies.
    Every Child would love their Parent unless they were brainwashed or had some history with that parent.

    And all of the 1,000’s of other U.S. Fathers in the same fight.
    Never give up!

  • Hendrix

    Unfortunately this guy is gonna lose the case, because the Japanese justice system is a joke and deeply racist… they will rule against foreigners especially in cases like this, also the Japanese couldnt care less if they became more alienated , they like it that way it gives them a sense of specialness.

  • Milli

    The mother abducted the daughter. In country or out, it is the same thing. When she killed herself, grandma had every obligation to return the child to her parent and no right to keep her. I am sure that this dad and every other parent in this situation is just thrilled with the to and froing in the courts. What a crock.

  • Milli

    The mother abducted the daughter. In country or out, it is the same thing. When she killed herself, grandma had every obligation to return the child to her parent and no right to keep her. I am sure that this dad and every other parent in this situation is just thrilled with the to and froing in the courts. What a crock.

  • kimpatsu

    The author admits that this is the first and only time it’s happened. We need more cases like this to be statistically certain.

  • wellabove

    Perhaps this father should man up and stop being a deadbeat dad, fleeing to different states when judgements for collection come to pass. According to U.S. Virginia attorney representing the family, he owes years of back child support. And the supposed wicked grandmother has also stated that she’d let him see her if he paid his child support.

    To quote from a U.S. military publication, Stars and Stripes:

    “We welcome him to see her,” Dugger said. “Every time we tried to set it up, he’d walk away from it.”

  • Gojira

    Which article?