Japan denies being ’black hole’ for children abducted by estranged parent


October 5, 2016

Source: torontosun.com

TORONTO — The Japanese government insists it has been complying with international child-abduction rules despite criticism to the contrary from Canadian parents who have been unable to gain access to their children in Japan.

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Tim Terstege holds his son Liefie at a lawyer’s office in Yokohama, Japan, in February 2015, the last time they were together. Terstege is one of dozens of Canadian parents deprived of access to their children in Japan

In a statement, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its top priority is to protect the interests of the children involved in such disputes.

“It is not right to see Japan as having legitimized child abduction in custody disputes, or of being a black hole for children whose parents are separated/divorced,” the ministry said.

“We consider it highly important to deal with international child abduction in accordance with internationally standardized rules.”

Earlier this week, The Canadian Press reported on the difficulties Canadian and other non-Japanese parents — mostly fathers — have in accessing their children in Japan after marital breakdowns. In some cases and despite court orders, the mothers have abducted the children and fled to Japan, where they remain with impunity, leaving the other parent frozen out.

Japan signed on to the Hague Convention on international child abductions in 2014 but parents say it has been of little help in getting their children returned to Canada, or even in getting access to them.

Colin Jones, a Canadian lawyer in Kyoto, said in an interview Wednesday that the problem isn’t so much with adherence to the Hague Convention, but rather with a Japanese court system that lacks tools for forcing people to return children. Police will typically not get involved in custody battles, he said, and no one will use force to separate a child from a parent unwilling to hand them over.

“Even if you win, you have trouble getting the child back,” Jones said. “A really recalcitrant parent can frustrate the process.”

In its 2016 annual report in international parental child abductions, the U.S. State Department praised the Japanese central authority for how it manages the convention process and said the courts had processed cases and issued orders in a timely manner.

However, the report did fault the country for failing to comply with its obligations in terms of the enforcement of return orders.

“A Japanese court issued the first convention return order to United States in early 2015,” the report states.

“Authorities attempted, but were unable to effectuate enforcement of the court order by Dec. 31, 2015, exposing what may be a systemic flaw in Japan’s ability to enforce return orders.”

One Canadian father, Tim Terstege, said custody in Japan is effectively determined by whichever parent abducts the child first, and the courts appear powerless to do anything about it. In his case, Terstege has had problems accessing his son even for the minimal court-ordered 24 hours a year.

Global Affairs Canada said it was currently dealing with 25 cases involving Canadian children in Japan but refused to comment.

Jones said Japan’s legal system differs from that in North America in that judges may not necessarily have the same kind of powers to issue orders to give up a child or allow a parent access.

“One parent ends up having control of the child and (Japanese) courts just want to defer to that parent,” Jones said.

While Japan has returned some abducted children to their home countries, parents might expect too much of a system that isn’t designed to intercede in a way that might happen in Canada or the United States, Jones said.

“They expect some magical child-recapture organization to spring into being but it doesn’t,” he said. “You’re basically left with what the domestic institutions already have.”

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Two years after Japan signed Hague, children have been returned but old issues remain


April 17, 2016

Source: japantimes.co.jp

‘What brand of Champagne did you drink?”

The lawyer delivered the question with a dramatic flourish, and I suppose it was a reasonable question to ask, even if rhetorically. I was being cross-examined as an expert witness in a child custody-related trial in a Western courtroom. One parent wanted to relocate to Japan with the child, the other was objecting.

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This was 2015. In a 2008 Japan Times column written about a rumor that Japan was preparing to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, I had declared: “I do not plan to crack open any Champagne until an abducted child is actually returned home.” The rumor proved wildly premature, but Japan ultimately ratified the convention, which, together with a package of baroque implementing laws and regulations, came into effect from April 2014.

The question about my Champagne preferences (Veuve Clicquot, by the way, if anyone is buying) was reasonable as a challenge to my reliability as an expert, yet was arguably irrelevant to the issue at bar: What could the court expect in terms of preserving the relationship between the child and the left-behind parent after the other parent and their child relocated to Japan? Unfortunately, “Not very much” may still be the answer.

But first, credit where it is due: In the two years since Japan signed the convention, more children abducted to or unlawfully retained in Japan have been returned to their home countries than at any time in the past. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s “central authority” for convention purposes, has handled almost 200 applications for assistance, and returns have been achieved in both directions (see table).

The Foreign Ministry has put significant effort into implementing the treaty and performing its central authority role. (A ministry representative also kindly responded to my inquiries in connection with this column.) It has sought to deter abductions through awareness programs, as well as foster amicable resolutions to abduction and visitation disputes by supporting mediation programs specifically designed for convention cases. (I am a mediator for one of them.) It also provides financial assistance for the translation of court documents and has set up a special online system (named Mimamori) for supervised cross-border “virtual visitation.”

Amicable resolutions are great, but there is not always much amity left between parents when one of them unilaterally spirits the children away to another country. Sometimes fear of abuse is a factor, but not always. Sometimes it is not; sometimes the taking parent is just trying to erase the other parent from his or her life, which necessitates erasure from the children’s lives as well. Having spent over a decade watching countless cases like these transpire, I believe that intentionally denying a parent — a former spouse, or life partner at that — a loving relationship with his or her child may be the worst thing one human being can do to another, short of physical violence. It is rarely good for the child, either.

The Hague Convention makes this harder by requiring that children taken or retained across borders in violation of custody rights be returned to their home country (where the other parent is typically also resident). Returns are the rule, but there are exceptions. One of these is if the child is living in Japan with the consent of the other parent. Disputes over relocation during or after divorce also being common, a child may also end up living in Japan with one parent through the permission of a foreign court.

When Japan was not a convention signatory, it was a red flag to foreign judges whenever a parent sought leave to take the children to Japan, whether to visit or live. “Just taking the kids back for the summer to see Grandma” and then staying is a pretty common abduction scenario everywhere (with Grandma sometimes playing a role in persuading the parent to stay). In Japan it was almost always a successful strategy — one that would frustrate whatever a judge in the country of origin might have decided about the child custody arrangements. Now, this type of “abduction by retention” should result in a Japanese court issuing a return order.

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With Japan having joined the treaty, parents and foreign judges alike may now feel more secure about the idea of a child being brought here to live. Yet if that happens with the consent of the other parent or permission of a foreign court, a return order will then be difficult — if not impossible — to obtain. While judges in American states may be accustomed to retaining jurisdiction over children taken to another state and being able to enforce their rulings on custody, this probably won’t work with a child taken to Japan; if the scenario does not constitute an “abduction,” parents will likely be left to seek relief in Japanese family courts outside the convention framework, and they should lower their expectations accordingly.

Judges still finding their way

First, conversations with lawyers indicate that even in abduction cases that clearly fall under the convention, the Osaka and Tokyo family courts charged with resolving them are still figuring things out. Family court judges are likely accustomed to resolving domestic cases without being constrained by the rules of evidence and procedure that should apply in Hague cases.

At the same time, however, such cases are supposed to be resolved more expeditiously, despite involving complex issues such as the interpretation of foreign law: What do “rights of custody” mean in Country X, for example? (There is an international network of “Hague judges” in which Japanese judges participate, but apparently not to the extent of using it as an informal source of information on foreign law and practice in specific cases.) Similarly, which party has the burden of proving what — a parent’s consent, for example? And what if a parent or foreign court’s permission to relocate to Japan with a child is based on the relocating parent’s promise of cooperation with visitation — a promise that is immediately broken after getting off the plane?

Some of my lawyer interlocutors complain about a lack of procedural clarity. Perhaps this is a matter of time and more cases will resolve these issues.

Mixed messages on visitation

Second, visitation in Japan remains patchy and difficult to enforce. The convention provides for facilitation of cross-border access (aka visitation) but with limited substance. While the Foreign Ministry offers support, it is just that — support, such as contacting the other parent and offering online visitation and mediation. Such support has reportedly resulted in visitation in some cases, and even led to a few instances of children being returned.

If cooperation is not forthcoming, however, the parent seeking visitation is left seeking recourse in family courts, pretty much like everyone else. Here the stories I hear seem have not changed dramatically: parents going for months without seeing their children, mediation sessions where nothing seems to happen, judges who seem unduly solicitous of parents engaging in alienating behavior, and courts making decisions based on expediency rather than the best interests of children.

There are some signs of changes: Courts seem to be awarding visitation more, and I hear more about overnight stays, though recent judicial statistics show them occurring in less than 10 percent of cases. Also, in a December 2014 decision, the Fukuoka Family Court transferred legal custody of a child from mother to father due to the former’s obstruction of visitation. Only last month, the Matsudo branch of the Chiba Family Court ordered a mother to hand over her daughter to the father after years of blocking contact between the two. Japanese family court professionals have long written about the “good parent rule” — giving custody to whichever is more understanding of visitation with the other — as a remedy for such intransigence, but these are the first instances I have seen of it actually being applied.

Yet such developments should be treated with caution. Seemingly revolutionary decisions have to survive appeals and be enforced to be truly meaningful. In the Fukuoka case, only legal custody was transferred, something that can be accomplished simply by filing the judgment with the family registry; it does not automatically equate with the father getting contact, only the mother needing to seek his cooperation to take legal acts like applying for a passport on their child’s behalf.

As for the other case, branch family courts have long been the dumping ground for judges disfavored by the judicial hierarchy, meaning the Chiba case could be an anomaly as much as a harbinger of true change. Even the family courts’ increased acceptance of visitation seems to be tied to growing use of supervised visitation through NPOs staffed by (surprise!) retired family court personnel. In other countries supervised visitation is limited to cases where a parent is abusive or potentially dangerous; in Japan it seems to be becoming the easy-to-award/recommend default solution for when the custodial parent is intransigent.

Visitation thus still seems to be driven by what the custodial parent can be convinced to agree to, rather than what might be meaningful for the child. The Foreign Ministry’s Mimamori online supervised visitation system seems to be an extension of this logic: that any contact is better than none, and might lead to something more meaningful (which is sometimes the case). Understandably, some parents who have done no wrong yet are expected to accept being treated like criminals in order to interact with their own children find this abhorrent.

Lack of enforcement — and details

Third, an order from a Japanese court to return a child, whether across the street or to another country, can often still be frustrated by a parent simply refusing to comply, or getting the child to refuse. This is said to have already been an issue in convention cases, which should not surprise anyone: Before the treaty came into force, the nation’s shikkōkan — the bailiffs who enforce civil judgments — announced that it would likely be impossible to enforce return orders without the child’s cooperation. While the process of implementing the Hague Convention has brought some clarity to the theory and practice of enforcing returns, without sanctions for contempt (which Japanese judges lack in these cases) or other police-like powers to back them up, court orders can end up being meaningless pieces of paper.

Fourth, and finally, after two years and a number of cases, the workings of Japan’s Hague courts remain invisible. No judgments have been published, nor do there appear to be any statistics available on case resolutions. There is no way for outsiders to know how Japanese courts are deciding whether or not to return children.

At least I can drink some Champagne (Moet & Chandon is fine too): Japan did join the convention, and lawyers tell me it is having a real effect in deterring abductions. Yet it shouldn’t be forgotten that the convention’s potential remains limited by the constraints of the Japanese family justice system as a whole. Describing those requires more words than a single column allows, so keep watching this space.

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Japan – Lawmakers launch group to ensure visitations after divorce


Mar 18, 2014

Source: globalpost.com

More than 40 Japanese lawmakers set up a group Tuesday with an aim to enact legislation to ensure visitations between children and their parents separated due to divorce or marital disputes in Japan.

Japan-Child-Abduction-Help

The lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties will strive to prevent severance of the parent-child relationship for the child’s best interest, as more than 150,000 children in Japan every year are estimated to lose contact with noncustodial parents following divorce.

Japan adopts the sole custody system and the country’s courts tend to award mothers custody. It is not unusual for children to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up.

At the first meeting of the parliamentarians’ group, Minoru Kiuchi, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives, said that not being able to meet with their own child would “violate the human rights of fathers.”

Kiuchi referred to his own experience of being temporarily separated from his children in the past due to a dispute with his wife.

A group of parents separated from their children urged the lawmakers at the meeting to increase the frequency of visitations, ban parental child abductions and oblige couples to work out a joint parenting plan for their children when they get divorced.

We can recover your abducted child from Japan

According to a government survey on visitations in fiscal 2011, 23.4 percent of 1,332 single mothers and 16.3 percent of 417 single fathers said they have agreed on a scheme of exchanges between children and their separated parents.

As for the frequency of visitations, 36.5 percent of 603 single mothers and 42.3 percent of 225 single fathers said their children have met with nonresident parents more than once a month.

Parental-Kidnapping

LDP lower house member Hiroshi Hase, who heads the secretariat of the lawmakers’ group, said that members will meet once a month and conduct fact-finding surveys before starting work to craft a new law.

The members will also promote awareness among the general public that it will be desirable for children to maintain access to both parents, he said.

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Put Japan on U.S. sanctions list for parental abductions: Washington Post editorial


August 14, 2015

Source: The Japan Times

Japan should be included in a U.S. government list of the countries subject to sanctions over parental abductions, The Washington Post said in an editorial in its Wednesday online edition.

Elementary school children on field trip pose for the camera, Ritsurin-koen (garden), Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan

The U.S. newspaper cited Japan as an example of a country that does not actively address the problem of cross-border child abductions by parents after their failed marriages with U.S. citizens.

“Japan was recorded as having no unresolved cases when there are more than 50 outstanding,” the paper pointed out, noting that the Asian nation is absent in the sanctions list that currently has 22 countries.

If the U.S. Department of State “fails to call things as they are, it sends a message that nothing really needs to change after all,” the paper said, noting that it lacks “willingness to hold foreign governments to account.”

In April last year, Japan joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets rules for settling child custody disputes in failed international marriages. But cases that happened before then are not covered by the treaty.

Some U.S. lawmakers are calling for sanctions to be imposed on Japan as affected U.S. citizens are frustrated at Japan’s lukewarm response to the matter.

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The State Department should do more to address international abductions


August 14, 2015

Source: The Washington Post

EVER SINCE his ex-wife wrongly took his son, now 11, to Japan five years ago, Jeffery Morehouse has been fighting for the boy’s return. Mr. Morehouse had been recognized as the sole custodial parent in Washington state, and a Japanese court affirmed that the ruling applies in Japan. Nonetheless, there has been no reunion, no visits, no contact of any sort.

Parental Child Abduction 123

Mr. Morehouse sadly is not alone. Nearly 1,000 children are abducted each year from the United States by a parent and taken to a foreign country; fewer than half of them ever come home. Recognizing the need to help the American parents left behind and bereft, Congress last year gave the State Department more tools to deal with abduction cases by passing the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act. The measure aims to put teeth in U.S. diplomacy by identifying a series of actions — increasing in severity from official protests to suspension of assistance — the State Department may take in bringing abducted children home or getting their cases fairly adjudicated.

A key requirement of the law is that the State Department compile and release an annual report to quantify unresolved cases and identify problem countries. But release of the first report revealed shortcomings in the State Department’s willingness to hold foreign governments to account. Recent hearings held by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), who sponsored the Goldman act, spotlighted what he called major gaps, even misleading information, in the report.

Alienated_Children_World

Countries were listed as having zero pending abduction cases even when there were cases that had been discussed in previous hearings and the State Department was involved with affected parents. Most notable, as Mr. Smith pointed out, was that in the key section of the report Japan was recorded as having no unresolved cases when there are more than 50 outstanding. The State Department gave Japan a pass for signing on last year to the Hague Convention that governs cross-border child custody disputes, not cataloguing the prior cases. That, of course, is of no help to parents such as Mr. Morehouse.

State Department officials acknowledged the report had gaps; it “did not meet all expectations,” said Susan Jacobs, the department’s special adviser for children’s issues. After Mr. Smith conducted two hearings on the matter, the department revised its report, acknowledging the unresolved cases in Japan. But Mr. Smith said the law demands more than scorekeeping. “With more accurate data reported, it is incumbent upon the Administration to make the other critical adjustments,” he said in a statement, “such as naming Japan along with the 22 other ‘non-compliant’ countries that are now subject to a strong response by the State Department.”

These reports are not academic exercises. They provide guidance to family court judges and parents assessing the risk of abduction in a child’s travel, and they inform congressional decisions about foreign assistance. If the State Department fails to call things as they are, it sends a message that nothing really needs to change after all.

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2 Japanese judges to join Hague Convention network


June 29, 2015

Source: The Japan News

The Supreme Court has decided to register two Japanese judges as members of the Hague Convention Attorney Network, which comprises judges from 65 signatories to the Hague Convention (see below), to help determine whether children of broken international marriages should be returned to their countries of habitual residence.

japanese child abduction

The measure is expected to give family court judges in Japan better access to information related to such proceedings via the network.

Through e-mails and other communications from their counterparts overseas, family court judges will be able to obtain constant, up-to-date information about legal and other systems to protect children and their mothers in other nations.

Lawyers specializing in such cases of parental child abduction have expressed high hopes. “Having detailed knowledge of the situation in the countries where children will be returned could make it easier to reach decisions,” one said.

The Supreme Court said 97 judges, drawn from 65 of the total 93 countries joining the convention, were registered in the network as of March.

Family laws differ among the signatory countries, and in the United States, they can even vary among states. Network members can exchange information about various legal systems and share their views on rulings in specific trials.

When the convention went into effect in Japan in April last year, the idea of registering Japanese court judges in the network was considered.

But some legal experts reportedly voiced concerns, saying that providing details of domestic trials to judges in other countries could hurt the independence of the judiciary.

Court judges experienced in handling such cases sought to enroll in the network. “I want to hear about the latest cases in other signatory countries so I can use them as reference,” one explained.

Consequently, the Supreme Court decided to register two judges who belong to its Family Bureau of the General Secretariat, rather than judges working in courts.

Law and money

The two member judges are expected to liaise over the phone and e-mail after collecting questions from family courts and other related entities.

For example, in cases of suspected domestic violence, Japanese court judges will be able to inquire in advance whether mothers and their children are eligible to receive assistance from administrative authorities if they repatriate.

If the conditions for returning the children are decided through legal mediation, Japanese court judges will be able to verify whether the terms decided in Japan are also legally binding in the other country.

The sources said the network members occasionally hold gatherings and exchange opinions.

“Participation in the network means that judgments based on the convention [in Japan] will be more aligned with international standards,” said Toshiteru Shibaike, a lawyer and expert on the convention. “In the future, court judges will hopefully make more flexible judgments that emphasize the welfare of children while using the perspectives of their peers abroad as reference.”

■ The Hague Convention

Formally called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it went into effect in April 2014 in Japan. As of April this year, 93 countries were signatories. If children are taken to Japan, family courts make decisions over whether to accept requests to return the children filed by parents in other countries. As of the end of March, Japanese family courts had received a total of 16 such requests, nine of which were granted.

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Presidential Memorandum — International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act


May 20, 2015

Source: US Gov.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT:      Delegation of Authority Pursuant to Section 302(b) of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014.

Statue-of-Liberty-USA

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby delegate the functions and authorities vested in the President by section 302(b) of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-150) (the “Act”), to the Secretary of State.

Any reference in this memorandum to the Act shall be deemed to be a reference to any future act that is the same or substantially the same as such provision.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

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Hague child abduction treaty providing little help for fathers of lost kids


March 14, 2015

Source: Stripes.com

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The last memory Donny Conway has of his daughter is watching her push him away just before putting her to bed.

Donny Conway Japan

“Momma told me if I hug you, she’s going be mad at me,” is what Conway recalls hearing from Christina, then 6.

Conway, who was a petty officer 2nd class at Lemoore Naval Air Station in California at the time, left his child’s room and told his soon-to-be ex-wife, Yumiko, never to say such a thing to his daughter.

A week earlier, Yumiko had returned from a trip to Japan and had asked for a divorce. Conway says she missed Japan and worried about his financial stability because he was among 3,000 sailors involuntarily released from the Navy because of what was then perceived as an overmanning problem.

In granting Yumiko’s divorce request, Conway expected resolution through the U.S. court system, he said.

Instead, on Aug. 9, 2012, the morning after seeing fear in his daughter’s eyes over a bedtime hug, he woke up to an empty house.

He later learned that his wife and daughter were in Japan, and he hasn’t heard from them since.

“I have no idea whether or not my daughter is even alive,” Conway said.

Conway’s case is not unusual — the State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have noted several dozen incidents of child abduction to Japan in recent decades.

Japan’s adoption of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April 2014 offers some remedy to that trend, according to experts; however, cultural and legal obstacles remain among parents hoping for either child custody or increased visitation.

Parents can apply for help through either the State Department or the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Hague Convention.

The Japanese will attempt to locate the child and set up a mediation process. If that fails, the parent seeking the child can petition family court.

In October, the new system returned its first child to a German parent abducted by a Japanese mother. Two more Canadian children were returned in December.

To date, five abducted children have been returned to Japan under the convention, according to Foreign Ministry data.

Parents whose children were abducted before Japan joined the convention can’t petition for a return, though they can petition for visitation.

Child Recovery Agents Parental Kidnapping

The idea of joint custody remains an alien concept in Japan, said Colin P.A. Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. Jones has written extensively on Japanese family law for several years.

Until the 1960s, the father tended to get custody of a child following a divorce, Jones said. At that point, societal shifts tended to favor maternal custody, often to the point of excluding the father from the child’s life.

Meanwhile, what Americans have viewed as criminal abduction, Japanese society has viewed as a normal part of divorce.

When considering custody and visitation, judges wield a substantial amount of discretion over any factor they think might harm the child, Jones said. If a foreign parent gets an arrest warrant issued after an ex-spouse abducts a child, the judge might even rule against a return on the grounds that a parent’s potential arrest would scar the child.

“It’s very common to do whatever it takes to bring the child back,” Jones said. “But having an arrest warrant may actually be counterproductive in long run.”

Although Japan has returned a few children, it remains to be seen just how cooperative the country will be over the next few years, Jones said.

The main sticking point is enforcement, Jones said. If Japanese officials try to contact the parent of an abducted child, then it can be argued that they’ve fulfilled their Hague Convention obligations, Jones said.

If one parent doesn’t cooperate, the legal remedies remain unclear. Even if both parents cooperate, the Hague Convention’s applicability doesn’t guarantee a result.

“Where there has been something of a sea shift in courts is in accepting that visitation is good for children,” Jones said. “But the court can be completely on your side, and you still may not get very much.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Erik Schaefer, a Navy corpsman based in Okinawa, found out recently how difficult life can become when the court isn’t on a parent’s side.

Shortly before returning from Afghanistan in May, Schaefer’s Japanese wife emailed him, telling him she was divorcing him.

His ex-wife refused to speak with him or tell him where his 4-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter were living.

Schaefer says he went for help at Camp Foster’s legal office but said they couldn’t assist because his wife was already a client. He went to Kadena Air Base, where the legal office gave him a list of Japanese lawyers.

When court mediation began, Schaefer agreed to sign legal custody over to his ex-wife after being told joint custody wasn’t an option.

“The mediators involved in the process kept making it very clear at the time that they believed a child had the right to see a father, and they kept reassuring me on this,” Schaefer said.

Between his Afghanistan deployment and his wife’s actions, Schaefer hadn’t seen his children in about a year and a half, until he saw them again in court in December.

The children shied away from him, and the judge noted it. The judge also asked several questions about an alcohol-related incident in Schaefer’s past, though he sought counseling afterward and hasn’t gotten in any trouble since.

In January, Schaefer received the verdict: one hour of supervised visitation every two months. When Schaefer transfers to another duty station and comes to Japan to visit, he will still only get one hour to see his children.

Schaefer had two weeks to appeal the decision but didn’t know it because it had taken two weeks before he received the decision back from a translator, he said.

He has since hired a local lawyer to review the court proceedings in a desperate attempt to change the ruling.

“I’m not expecting the world,” Schaefer said. “Just enough that the kids feel like they have a dad.”

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