Smith Introduces the Philips-Davenport International Child Abduction Return Act

News Item

A new source of hope for left behind parents
Smith Introduces the Philips-Davenport International Child Abduction Return Act

Washington, Jul 28, 2017
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (P.L 113-150), introduced an innovative new bill that will automatically remove tariff benefits for countries that are found to be out of compliance in returning children home—the “Bindu Philips and Devon Davenport International Child Abduction Return Act of 2017.”
“Bindu Philips fought valiantly in India for over eight years for the return of her abducted twin sons, only to be given the incessant delays in India’s courts and little support from the Obama Administration,” said Smith, Chair of the House panel on global human rights. “Just recently, she was finally granted a short visit with her children in India, but the children’s father marred the time with harassment and monitoring, refusing to let the children and mother leave a hotel for 7 days.
“Devon Davenport has had a return order for his daughter, Nadia, from Brazil since 2009. He has won every single one of the 24 appeals against the order—but Brazil still will not enforce its own return order.
“Shockingly, 11 of the 13 countries found to be non-compliant in the annual Goldman Report by the U.S. State Department in the return of abducted American children are still receiving billions of dollars in tariff exemptions under the Generalized System of Preferences. We must cease rewarding countries that aid abductors. When is enough finally enough?”
In 2016, 629 American children were taken from the United States by one parent without the consent of the other, often in direct violation of valid United States court orders, United States criminal law and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Obama Administration’s refusal to apply sanctions against countries that fail to return abducted children has led to a rate of return of only 16%.
“For years, the U.S. government response to abductions has been an engraved invitation to abductors,” said Smith. “Abductors have an 84% chance of no penalty for ripping their child from home and family in the United States. It is my hope and expectation that this year, the State Department will begin to act more decisively on behalf of American families so that more children come home.”
The new bill amends the Generalized System of Preferences, a trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world through duty free entry for some products, so that any country named as non-compliant in the prompted resolutions of abductions would lose trade benefits granted by the United States. The new legislation ensures that the loss of trade preference would be automatic and not dependent on the Executive Branch applying sanctions.
Abducted children in a foreign country are often blocked from any contact with the American parent, losing half of their family and heritage.  Such children are also at grave risk of serious emotional and psychological problems. Many such children experience anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, aggressive behavior, resentment and fear. Every day the abduction continues only compounds these harms.

Source:  “Smith Introduces the Philips-Davenport International Child Abduction Return Act”, News Item, Congressman Chris Smith’s website, published on 28 July 2017


New international family law convention proposed

New international family law convention proposed

Hague Convention
If created, the new international treaty would join the three existing Hague Conventions on family law matters – the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; the 1996 Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children; and the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.

Hague Conventions derive their name from the Dutch city of Den Haag (The Hague), where the first was signed as long ago as 1899. Since 1951 38 Conventions on different aspects of “private international law” have been created.

An expert’s group had been drawn together to explore issues surrounding the enforcement in participating countries of legal orders and agreements concerning children made in other participating states. Following their investigations they proposed the creation of the brand new Convention to facilitate this process and add value to the three earlier family law Hague Conventions.

A situation in which a family order made in one country is generally recognised and enforced in other nations was in the best interests of children they declared.

The three existing family law Conventions do not address longer term family arrangements – for example, child maintenance or contact, or other financial issues, including property. If created, the new Convention would provide an efficient and simple method for cross-border enforcement of such matters.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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Source:  “New international family law convention proposed”, Stowe Family Law Blog, 16 July 2017

Japan signed abduction treaty but for ‘left-behind’ parents that doesn’t mean much

Japan signed abduction treaty but for ‘left-behind’ parents that doesn’t mean much

The Washington Post 

James Cook is a Minnesota man in a custody battle with the Japanese mother of his children. (James Cook,/Courtesy of James Cook)
James Cook wants his four children home in Minnesota. His estranged wife, Hitomi Arimitsu, says they want to stay with her in Japan. And so they have been going around in circles through the courts for almost three years.

If child custody battles are messy, expensive affairs when the parents live in the same country, they’re exponentially more so when the parents live in different countries and are fighting over where the children should live and which place should have jurisdiction.

Japan signed The Hague Abduction Convention, the treaty that governs international child abductions, in 2014 but is struggling to put its provisions into effect.

That is where the Cook family is caught.

“For three years of their lives, these kids have not had their dad. Kids need their dad, they need both their parents,” Cook said via Skype from his home in Minnesota. “I can’t describe to you the hell that this has been.”

Cook, who studied Japanese in college, and Arimitsu, a Japanese woman who attended a university in Minnesota, had lived in the United States for almost the whole time they had been together. But three years ago this week, with their marriage on the rocks, Cook agreed that Arimitsu could take their four children to Japan for the summer — with a notarized agreement that she would bring them back.

When that ended, they agreed that Arimitsu and the children would stay on a little longer, while Cook, who had lost his job, looked for work.

By the end of the year, Cook realized his family wasn’t coming back.

In the past two years, the pair has been going through acrimonious court battles in Osaka and in Minnesota, and each has won some and lost some rounds.

As is common in such cases, they have wildly different versions of events and focus on the rounds they’ve won.

Cook says an order in Minnesota last month, which found Arimitsu in contempt of court and upheld two orders from December that she return the four children to their father, should stand. In that case, the judge awarded Cook temporary sole legal and physical custody of the children.

But Arimitsu, through her lawyer Tomoko Kamikawa, said that because the Osaka High Court in February rejected Cook’s request to have the children returned, there is no valid return order under The Hague Convention. Cook has appealed this ruling to Japan’s Supreme Court.

The children do not want to return to the United States, Kamikawa said.

The crux of the problem, Cook and other “left-behind parents,” say, is that Japan — unlike other signatories — has no way of following through on its Hague commitments.

“Enforcement is one of the key problems,” said John Gomez, an American who heads the Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion group in Tokyo and is helping Cook. “Every country has to create implementation legislation to enforce their orders, but Japan basically cannot enforce their orders.”

The legislation that Japan passed to implement The Hague provision forbids the use of force, and stipulates that the children must be retrieved from the premises of the parent who has taken them. The “taking parent” must be present. The enforcement officers are basically bailiffs who are more used to repossessing washing machines than extracting children from emotionally charged situations.

This essentially means that enforcement involves an official at the gate calling for the children to come out, while the taking parent is inside with them.

“All of this was completely predictable,” said Colin Jones, a law professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto and an expert on child custody law in Japan. “Without dealing with enforcement methods, it was just a matter of time until a case like the Cook case happened.”

The U.S. government has expressed misgivings about Japan’s implementation of The Hague convention provisions. “The [State] Department is concerned about Japan’s ability to quickly and consistently enforce return orders,” it said in its 2017 annual report on international child abductions.

But the Japanese government says that it is making good progress.

“It’s been only three years since Japan entered into The Hague Convention,” said Hajime Ueda, director of The Hague Convention Division in the Foreign Ministry. “It takes time because every case is unique. From that point of view, we have been doing quite a good job.”

Eight children involved in five cases have been returned to the United States since Japan signed The Hague Convention, Ueda said.

The convention was a politically charged issue in Japan, with a substantial amount of opposition to signing it, so even becoming a signatory in 2014 was a major achievement. Experts note that it took other signatories some time to change domestic legislation to allow enforcement of The Hague Convention provisions; Germany, for instance, took about five years.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is dealing with about 70 child abduction cases, 42 of them filed since Japan signed the convention, and 10 of those seeking the return of children to the United States.

The other cases just involve access — another thorny issue in Japan, where there is no concept of joint custody.

The prevailing wisdom in Japan says it is upsetting or disruptive for children to continue to see both parents after a marriage breaks down, so one parent — almost always the mother — gets full custody and the other parent usually has two hours’ access to the children each month.

“Visitation is the most problematic thing with Japan. A lot of cases about return orders are actually about access, about the noncustodial parent being able to maintain a relationship with their child,” said Jones of Doshisha University.

According to Gomez’s research, about 3 million children in Japan have lost access to one parent after divorce in the past 20 years – about 150,000 a year.

Children age out of the system at 16, so time is on the taking parent’s side, according to people involved in custody disputes.

And nothing will change for international custody cases until the domestic system that favors sole custody changes, experts say.

This is difficult because Japan has a family registry system, which operates as the foundation for all documentation. A person can be on only one family registry so after a divorce, children are usually removed from their father’s family registry and placed on their mother’s.

“The parent who becomes noncustodial loses all of their parental rights and effectively becomes a stranger to the child,” said Bruce Gherbetti, another “left-behind” parent who is advocating for change through the Kizuna group.

For now, that leaves Cook, who has found work with a medical device company, sitting in Minnesota, having no contact with his children.

“I’m sad we are in this mess and I’m concerned about my children,” he said. “This is the heartbreak of being a ‘left behind.’ ”

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Hitomi Arimitsu. The story has been updated.


Source:  “Japan signed abduction treaty but for ‘left behind parents’ that doesn’t mean much”, The Washington Post, 16 July 2017


Ignacio Goicoechea, representative for the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Permanent Bureau of Hague Conference on Private International Law, speaking with the Jamaica Observer last week. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

JAMAICA is now better placed to register cases of parental child abductions each year, as the country is now party to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

“I have heard from the authorities that they know about cases, [but] as far as I know there are no statistics. The Child Development Agency (CDA) will start registering the cases from now on, so by the end of the year you’ll have the first data of cases tried under the convention,” said Ignacio Goicoechea, representative for the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Permanent Bureau of Hague Conference on Private International Law.

He was speaking last week in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

According to Goicoechea, there are cases in existence but it will take a while for people to realise that they have a place to go now in order to resolve their cases in a swift and efficient manner.

“In a population like Jamaica, it can be estimated that you’ll have a couple of tens every year (including both incoming and outgoing), but most probably less than 100. The tendency in the world is that these cases will be increasing slowly. However, the mere awareness that the convention is in place should also have a deterrent effect for many cases,” he added.

Regionally, Goicoechea said the parental child abductions are quite common but as it relates to numbers, they are not massive.

“The Latin American and Caribbean region is characterised because many of the nationals here move to other jurisdictions to work or study. It is quite common that the region would have cases, mostly ongoing cases, to get these children back from other jurisdictions. These are not massive cases in terms of number, but are very delicate and difficult cases to address.

 “They are delicate because the left behind parent is often in a deep crisis seeking for his or her child, and demands immediate attention. That’s what the convention provides — an urgent mechanism to get children back to allow the jurisdiction of the habitual residence of this child to address the case, and to decide in the best interest of the child whether he or she should stay with the mother or father or [be] brought up in Jamaica or the other country. It is very important to distinguish the custody case from the child abduction case, which is the situation which the convention addresses,” Goicoechea explained.

The convention, he said, is expected to ease the often long, expensive, and limited success process in Jamaica and elsewhere of seeking the return of these children.

“Jamaica in joining this convention on International Child Abduction, provides a powerful tool for those individuals that are dealing with child abduction situations and would have an easy way of getting their children back to Jamaica if they are taken out of the country — in breach of custody rights of the other parent,” he said.

Goicoechea added that individuals can go directly to the central authority — which in Jamaica’s case is the CDA — which would manage the case, provide the individual with a form to fill in, and send the application to the foreign central authority where the Jamaican resident has been taken, in order to have the case duly addressed.

He also pointed out that the Convention works both ways as it helps foreign residents whose children have been taken to Jamaica to file before the Jamaican court, through the CDA, after which a decision on the return of this child to residence in the foreign country would be determined.

The Hague Convention aims to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international borders by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.

Source:  “Jamaica now party to convention that allows registration of parental child abductions”, The Jamaica Observer, 10 July 2017 

Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer

Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer

Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer

Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The issue of child abduction is international and based on the growing nature of mixed ethnic marriages, then it is an issue that needs addressing with immediate effect. This article is focused on Japan and how the ratification of the Hague Convention (Child Abduction) is still being restrained by domestic law, enforcement powers, individual cases dealt with differently, limitations of this convention, and the continuing dependence on the goodwill of the abductor for many aggrieved parents. Therefore, while some progress was made for a minority of international parents seeking their rights fulfilled, the majority still face enormous obstacles and feel betrayed and at a loss.

Of course, each case is different and the same applies to the varying degree of parental alienation syndrome. Yet, the feeling of desperation and becoming more distant is a sad reality. Equally important, forgotten grandparents, relatives, and friends suffer greatly when a child or children are taken away. Hence, while the obvious focus is on the alienated parent, the reality is that many individuals suffer from enormous stress and anxiety – and the same applies to putting internal stresses on relationships.

Turning back to Japan ratifying the Hague Convention, it is apparent that many problems remain. Given this reality, in the three years following the signature, it is known that only 18 cases have resulted in children being returned out of 68 legal requests. Alarmingly, while 19 of these cases are currently ongoing, 31 other cases have either been dismissed or settlements specify the non-return of abducted children. In other words, some parents now have little redress to law and know that cultural and linguistic alienation will increase parental alienation syndrome, to the point of permanent damage. After all, not only is child abduction being rewarded but equally disturbing all notions of basic custody rights are being ignored.

Of course, for some grandparents of abducted children and parents that may suffer from health issues, then the clock is ticking beyond any hope. The stress of this is unimaginable and how sad that lawful people are being denied the most basics of human rights – this is the right to see their own children and have legal documents honored to the full.

The National Post (Canada News) reported last year, “The Canadian father (Tim Terstege) is far from alone in trying to navigate a seemingly impenetrable and hostile Japanese system sometimes described as a black hole for children. Figures indicate dozens of Canadians — mostly fathers — are among thousands of foreigners faced with the gut-wrenching loss of their children in Japan. Some parents are reported to have killed themselves in despair. Others have ended up in jail after trying to snatch back their children.”

It is known that approximately 400 children from America were abducted by Japanese parents between 1994 and 2015, the result being virtually no address in Japanese law. Hence, it was hoped that ratification of the Hague Convention would herald a new beginning – even if bumps remained. Yet, not only is the number of cases low given the numbers of children abducted to Japan; but major stumbling blocks – and the end of the road for many failed cases, is also an ongoing reality for international parents caught up in this endless nightmare. Likewise, international parents married to Japanese spouses in this nation suffer from domestic courts based on issues outside of parenthood.

Parental alienation, cultural estrangement, linguistic issues, parental manipulation by the abductee, and other important areas, are all magnified by time and distance. Therefore, for many left behind parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends of children abducted, the ticking clock of injustice is relentless and permanent.


Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group

Source:  “Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome:  Foreign Parents still Suffer”, Modern Tokyo Times, 5 July 2017