Every Child

Has Two Parents


New Jersey Judge Makes Ridiculous ruling.  US Child Relocated to Japan.   

see related: Ridiculous New Jersey Ruling, Makinnon Saga

In 1998 while working in Hong Kong I met Mutsumi.  We seemed to share a great deal in common, a love of travel, dancing, and friends.  We were married in 1999 and in 2001 our son Richard was born.  In 2002 I was offered a significant promotion on condition that I move back to the United States and relocate to our company’s headquarters in Secaucus NJ.  Mutsumi knew this move was always a possibility, in face we spent many evening idly imagining where we might move to, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore or London, all based on whatever direction the company might take.  This particular opportunity carried a 25% raise and the potential to purchase a house, with a back yard, that seemed so wonderful after living in crowded Hong Kong for many years.


The difficulties in our marriage actually began shortly after the birth of our son in 2001.  Mutsumi became unsatisfied and verbally abusive with just about anything I did.  So while I had hoped that a move, promotion, raise and house would help our marriage, it was not entirely unexpected that our marriage continued to deteriorate after the move to New Jersey.  At the time I had no idea about the conditions in Japan vis-à-vie divorce, child care and visitation.  Mutsumi’s verbal abuse and critiques became more pronounced.  Things escalated to the point that on a weekly she threatened divorce and taking our son to go live in Japan.  At this point I contacted Jeremy Morley and discovered about the Japanese single parent system.  In December 2003 I filed for divorce in New Jersey to try and keep my son in the United States. At that time he was 2 years old.  We fought a bitter custody battle for over a year, she was petitioning the court to relocate to Japan and live there permanently.  Both the custody experts and the judge ruled that the father son relationship would be adversely affected by the move and therefore denied her petition.  At the time she vowed that she would petition the court again in the future.


Fast forward to 2009 and I found myself unemployed.  I fell behind in child support, it was difficult for me to just keep my home and continue to put food on the table.  All my savings were lost in the market crash, I had nothing.  By June I started to find work and made an effort to continue increasing my income to try and pay Mutsumi and all my creditors what was owed from the 6 months of non-income.  The success was limited but the effort to overcome the adversity was herculean. By December of 2009 I owed Mutsumi about $5,000.  She demanded I pay at least $3800 by December 31st or she would petition the court for relocation to Japan again.  I simply didn’t have the money but I was able to pay $4000 by March.  Still that did not matter, she took advantage of the situation and filed for relocation on December 23rd.


In reviewing a petition for relocation the courts of New Jersey do not use the Child’s best interest standard.  Instead they use 12 conditions as set forth in the precedence case Baures vs. Lewis.  Those conditions are worthy of a separate message but suffice here to say that the standard are quite low and a large majority of relocation petitions are granted.  Everything comes down to which judge the case is given.  Our first judge in 2003 was Judge Torack.  He understood the complexities and difficulties and strain that 6000 miles would put on a parent child relationship.  The judge in our 2009 case was Judge James Guida.  He is far more liberal.


I was not in a financial position to effectively fight this.  I could not hire a custody expert. I could not hire a Japan law expert to testify.  I had to borrow $5000 from my parents to hire a lawyer.  That money ran out quickly and by July I had to be Pro Se for lack of funds.  By contrast Mutsumi had the full support of her family, hired a custody expert, kept her lawyer.  Over the summer I was interviewed many times by her custody expert.  I believe I made a compelling argument about the conditions in Japan.  Up to this point Mutsumi had stated to the court that if the petition was not granted she would remain in NJ to continue the situation where Richard was able to see both parents on normal visitation schedule.  By August she reversed that direction, quit her job, emptied her apartment and relocated to Japan, leaving Richard in my care.  If this was Judge Torack, this action would have been the end of it.  But Judge Guida not only allowed it but encouraged it. 


Stepping back a little, I had sent my request for a standard 2 week summer vacation to Mutsumi for the middle two weeks in August.  This request was sent with plenty of forward notice.  Rather than grant this request, she used that situation to petition the court to allow her to take Richard to Japan immediately pending the outcome of the relocation petition.  I luckily was able to defeat this move but not without significant expense that basically wiped out our summer vacation fund (we were going to go back to Seattle where Richard’s grandparents and aunts live)  Instead we had stay in New Jersey.


The custody expert review was due in middle of September.  However in a surprise move, Mutsumi’s lawyer stated the report was not ready and that they wanted to go straight to trial.  The judge supported this.  I suspect that their custody expert’s report was not favorable to their petition.  Therefore we went to trial without a custody expert report and with me as Pro Se.


The main argument at trial was that the father son relationship was very strong and should withstand the separation.  That I would be allowed to see Richard 5 times a year at every school vacation period.  That I would be allowed daily telephone contact and skype contact.


I still wonder what would have been said if our father son relationship was not strong, probably that the move would have little effect on Richard.  So in that sense not matter what the relationship is between parent and child there is justification to allow relocation in Judge Guida’s court.


On October 12th the Judge’s ruling was announced that the relocation petition was granted and that Mutsumi would be the custodial parent (we had joint legal custody)  That Richard would be sent to live in a country he had only visited for 2 weeks once.  That he would attend an entirely different school system and leave behind his father, friends and the only life he had ever known.


At present, communication is difficult.  Mutsumi is controlling, she monitors and listens in on all telephone calls.  To date she has not allowed skype contact and we have yet to receive details of Richard’s pending visit in December.

Paul’s court documents


The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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