Every Child

Has Two Parents


If he’s very lucky, this Father’s Day, Kent Swaim will Skype with his young sons in Japan.

For the third Father’s Day in a row, there will be no hugs, no fishing excursions, no touchingly earnest macaroni sculptures.

The Clayton father has been awarded full custody of his sons William, 11, and James, 6, but he hasn’t seen them in nearly three years — since he came home to an empty house July 8, 2008. A month later, he learned that his wife Miyuki had taken the children to her native Japan.

That was only the beginning of the nightmare for Swaim, a master sergeant at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He was soon to learn that Japan is the only G-7 nation that hasn’t signed on to the Hague Convention regarding international child abduction. In other words, the order from Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court awarding Swaim full custody carried no weight in Japan.

That’s all about to change with the Japanese Cabinet’s recent announcement that it will sign the Hague Convention. But it may not be in time for Swaim and the 115 American families, involving 160 children, in similar situations.

“It could be years before they start hearing cases,” Swaim said. “But if signing the Hague Convention doesn’t help me, it will help future generations. I’m happy, but it’s taking way too long.”

U.S. State Department officials said that the purpose of the Hague Convention is to “discourage abduction as custody tool,” but that signing the convention will only officially apply to future cases. State Department officials said they will continue to exert pressure for Japan to resolve existing cases in a speedy fashion, in accordance with Hague guidelines.

“There is no cause for celebration until the children come home,” said activist and father Patrick Braden, who cautioned Swaim and other parents against being too optimistic about the development.

“I can’t begin to explain how broken-hearted and destroyed I am,” Swaim said. “I hurt to the bottom of my soul. Father’s Day is especially bad because my father passed away five years ago and now I don’t have my boys here to wish me a happy Father’s Day. And although it’s nothing like being with them, it’s wonderful to see James and William on Skype when their mom allows them to. Even though the three of us miss each other dearly, we manage to have fun, smile, and laugh on Skype. It’s just a shell of what used to be, and at times hurts even worse because it just reminds me of what I don’t have in my life daily.”

His younger son James, only 3 years old when he left the United States, has lost his ability to speak English. “He has become more distant because of the language barrier,” Swaim said.

When he turns 15, William can choose to live with the parent of his choice, under Japanese law, “but I don’t want to separate the brothers,” Swaim said. “James is mildly autistic and he relies so much on his older brother. When James started kindergarten, his teachers in Japan arranged it so he could see his brother at recess.”

Swaim has also been dealing with a bureaucratic snafu: He and his attorney, Anne Shale, have been cited with contempt of court for failing to divide his military pension with his former wife as specified in the divorce decree. “They are trying to get me to comply with every single component of the divorce decree when she still has the kids,” Swaim said. “How is that a fair and equitable system?”

Mike Howley, legal director for the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court, thinks that’s a fair question. “This case is very unique,” he said. The contempt citations are automatically generated, he said, when a court-ordered division of property hasn’t been enforced.

“Of course, his ex-wife hasn’t complied with the custody order,” Howley acknowledged, “but how do we serve her, and where? We have no jurisdiction in Japan.”

Howley said he will recommend that the contempt of court proceedings be put on hold until the boys have been returned to their father.

According to Miyuki Swaim’s Dayton attorney, Eugene Robinson, her former husband is “holding the money as ransom to get the kids back.”

Swaim countered that he would gladly divide his military pension if he could only get his sons back: “This is our last carrot to help her to comply with the custody decree. If she gets the pension, she has everything she wants. She is going to sit back and reap the benefits. Because she is in Japan, the court has no other power over Miyuki, so maybe, just maybe, this will motivate her to do what is not only right, but what the court has ordered her to do.”

In her decision granting custody to Kent Swaim, Domestic Relations Court Judge Judith King cited Miyuki Swaim’s past history of child abuse, mental illness and suicide attempts.

Robinson said that his client was depressed about her marriage and life in a foreign land, away from her support system. “She left because she didn’t want to be stuck here with no friends and no support system, they’re as much her life as the military is his life,” he said. “If Miyuki were here during the custody hearings, she might have stood an equal chance to get those kids.”

Swaim strongly disagreed: “That’s an insult to the Montgomery County courts. They made their decision based on facts and history. The court made their decision based on what is honestly best for James and William.”

His sons are his life, he said, not his military career or material possessions. “The only thing that matters to me is the children, and if I must lose everything to get them, I will,” he said. If I can have the children returned to me, I honestly don’t care about the rest of it, God will make sure we are taken care of.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2209 or mmccarty@DaytonDailyNews.com.


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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