Every Child

Has Two Parents


The Father of 7 Year Old Son, Terrie, Experiences Japanese Family Court Mediation

"He won't want to see you as often when he reaches junior high school age."

    -After hearing 9 year old son say he wanted to visit his father every day, the Family Court Mediator speculates out loud to father being denied visitation by his suicidal wife.

My wife, Yoko, and I got married in Japan in the mid-90s after dating for about 2 years. She had been married once before and had a young daughter from that marriage. It was apparently due to her first husband’s extra-marital affair that Yoko began having psychological issues. These issues included intense jealously and a mistrust of others, which led to periods of depression. However, she was getting treatment and counselling and insisted she would be able to get over these problems. I mistakenly thought this would be a short-term problem and believed her promises that she’d settle down if she were in a stable relationship. She seemed to want this more than anything.

After a rocky start the first year of married life was mostly fine. In fact during the whole time she was pregnant I recall that we were fairly happy and thought things would be fine. It was during this time we decided to rent a house near her parents’ place. Although a little old it was roomy so I spent time and a large sum of money renovating it. Yoko was happy there but soon after our son was born she began house hunting. Our rented place was apparently too old and small so she set her sights on a larger house for sale nearby. After initial reservations and a promise that she’d return to work after maternity leave I had ¥4 million sent from my home country for the down-payment. She gave me her word our house would be jointly owned but I was deceived and she had the ownership placed solely in her name.

Yoko was becoming obsessed with money and wrongly claimed I was hiding it from her. I had already given her one of my cash cards. I also gave her regular cash amounts for family expenses and the mortgage. She kept pressuring me to give her more yet she continued to buy luxury items for our house. A long planned family vacation had to be abandoned. It seemed Yoko was still living in the bubble-economy days and it was a very stressful time.

After an argument over money she picked up the children and went back to her parents’ house. Although our son was only 8 months old she selfishly refused all visitation. However, within a month or two she returned to live in our house, also bringing along her parents. Yoko felt it necessary that she sleep together with her mother and the children in one room, while I slept in another. This became a permanent arrangement. To prevent more arguments and improve the situation I gave her the second of my 2 cash cards.

Her mercurial moods were a problem. So was her unfounded jealousy - I needed to very tread carefully with female students and workmates. As in pre-marriage days Yoko tended to overindulge in alcohol and matters were made worse with after-work drinking binges. There were times when this confused and scared the children. Although she had been seeing a psychiatrist for some time it got to the stage where marriage guidance counseling became necessary. Yoko, however, barely showed any interest in the one and only session we attended.

In the spring of 1998, she suddenly quit her job, claiming that it was too stressful and the cause of her problems. She wanted to start afresh. Because of the heavy financial burden it would put me under I told her I wanted to let our house out. I was also tired of the sleeping arrangements and my mother in-law’s unwavering support for her daughter, no matter what the situation. Although initially OK with the idea, Yoko’s thinking abruptly changed and she aggressively confronted me one morning, demanding we stay in the house. When I came home from work I found she’d trashed my room and returned permanently with the children to her parents’ house again. A week or two later she was hospitalised through an overdose of her medication. Within the next few months she moved without my knowledge or consent to a new apartment and had a removal firm take most of the furnishings from our house while I was at work.

I decided to go ahead with subletting our house through the company I worked for. The contract was made out in Yoko’s name and the monthly income of ¥165,000 was deposited into her account. She was quite satisfied with this arrangement but, sadly, within a couple of months she began pestering me to return to our house again. In fact, it became an obsession and caused me no end of trouble. At one stage she summoned me to her parents’ house for what I thought would be some kind of reconciliation. Instead I was given a choice; return to our house or divorce. I told her I’d do neither so she grabbed a kitchen knife and slashed my shoes and bicycle tyres. Her father, who was also present for this meeting, helped me to leave safely. She continued to spend a lot of money on moving apartments (3 in total) until she eventually bought a nice 3DK apartment. As usual, she acted entirely on her own and bought this without my knowledge.

By this time I’d consulted 3 different law firms. Their advice was always basically the same; unless you can reconcile with your wife then you should give up and move on with your life. They told me my chance of gaining custody of our son was virtually zero, even in such a scenario. Rather than leave young 2 children with an unpredictable mother I felt it was better to persevere and so I moved back in with her, this time to her new apartment. She promised she would be content to stay there. However, not long after I’d let the lease expire on my previous apartment she began her same irrational pleas to return to our first house. There were some terrible tantrums and her behaviour was becoming really unbearable. There were:

  1. Late night phone calls and at least a couple of visits by the police to bring her home after alcohol related incidents. Her parents and I regularly searched neighbourhood bars and Izakaya looking for her.

  2. Arguments with neighbours. The building supervisor claimed in an affidavit there was also other very odd behavior, which caused the residents concern.

  3. Verbal threats and intermittently returning to her parents – meaning no visitation - when she didn’t get her way.


  5. Threats to overdose on her medication.

For the simple and irrational reason that I kept refusing to move to her beloved house she permanently abandoned her apartment in Aug. 1999, taking our son with her. I continued living in her apartment to avoid her defaulting on the loan. Following this:

  1. I later got calls from her parents asking me to look for her and Terrie. On one of these occasions I witnessed her leaving a bar drunk then erratically cycling home with Terrie on the back carrier while screaming at passers-by. This certainly wasn’t the only time she took him to a bar. I managed to grab my son while she was stopped at an intersection. Instead of continuing home I witnessed her returning to the bar. My mother in law, although relieved to hear her grandson was OK, came and got Terrie back the following day as though he were her private property.

  2. Yoko severely harassed the tenants of our first house and the police became involved at least 3 times. On the first visit she invited herself into the house for drinks. One of the tenants later testified that she went to the toilet and to their surprise, returned to the room naked. Other people wrote of similar strange behavior and incidents in affidavits to the court.

Near the end of the year I received a postcard from Yoko saying she was in hospital following a suicide attempt. From around this period, while still living with her parents, she entered various psychiatric institutions for treatment of alcoholism and mental illness. She had been diagnosed at various times with either depression or bipolar illness. Typically, I had been unable to meet my son since she left in August. However, that changed when she got a new boyfriend. Her attitude toward visitation shifted overnight and suddenly I was able to see him freely. In fact, she actively encouraged Terrie to stay at my apartment while she was having her affair. There were a number of serious incidents though, apparently because of this relationship.

  1. In April 2000 she was rushed to hospital after collapsing in a shopping street through an overdose of pills and alcohol. Terrie was with her and witnessed this.

  2. In May she almost succeeded in killing herself after taking a near fatal overdose of pills and was in a coma for some days.

  3. She also had continuing arguments with her parents. I remember visiting her parents’ to find her fighting with them after her father had called her “kichigai.”

Yoko was so taken with her new boyfriend that she handed me a completed divorce form giving away custody of Terrie. I delayed submitting it because of her dangerous state of mind and concern for her daughter. Yoko’s plan was to move into a Kobe apartment with her new friend. She even entered this new address on bank documents and asked me about taking appliances from my (her) apartment. However, she soon split with her boyfriend and with her mother backing her up, came and retrieved Terrie again. I never stopped them from meeting Terrie but they always had different ideas and returned to obstinately blocking visitation again. At this point I tried to submit the divorce form at the ward office but found she’d put a block on it.

Family Court Mediation – 2001/2002:

Beginning in 1999 my wife submitted, and soon abandoned, 4 petitions for family court mediation. I submitted 2 applications for mediation although I abandoned the first one after Yoko signed an oath pledging to improve her behavior and to give custody of our son to me if our marriage failed.

At this stage I was living in a small apartment nearby and met her and the children almost everyday. The situation was fine for about 2 months until there was a violent late-night incident followed by complete obstruction of visitation again. She was angry about the separate living arrangements and complained about living with her parents. Since signing the oath she’d unexpectedly quit her part-time job and soon began insisting that we find another apartment together, despite promises made that we’d spend some time living in our own respective places. After this incident she used our son to cruelly deny visitation. For example she told me he was hiding from me, or, unbelievably, she lied that Terrie saw me propose marriage to a Japanese girl while he was at a restaurant with me. I taped this phone conversation although the court had no interest in hearing it.

Following this incident she applied for her final mediation but abandoned it after one session. Around the same time she mailed me a second partially-completed, signed and sealed divorce form. I completed it and tried to submit the form but was refused. The ward office should have removed this block while her 4th submission for mediation was pending and I believe their refusal to do this was illegal.

Following Yoko’s unreasonable behavior and staunch refusal to let me see Terrie I initiated my second mediation in late 2001. Some months later Yoko re-entered a psychiatric hospital for about 2 months. The court permitted unsupervised visitation once a week but my wife and her parents kept obstructing Terrie’s right to see me with weak excuses and lies, or pretending to be not at home.

This constant denial of Terrie’s visitation right culminated in him cutting his own thumb with a kitchen knife early one morning on visitation day. He told his mother he wanted to commit suicide. This, apparently, was a 6-year-old boy’s way of forcing his mother to allow visitation. I believe this incident shocked Yoko enough to let him see me freely for 2 consecutive days before she cruelly cut off his visitation again until the next mediation date, seven weeks later. To me it was clear that Yoko was jealous of Terrie enjoying his visits so she decided to intervene and put her own selfish interests first.

The mediators did not crack down on Yoko’s selfish behavior at all. In fact they condoned it because, “she felt nervous.” There was no doubt in my mind that the family court’s claim of putting the welfare of the child first was nonsense, at least when it involved a foreign father. The mediators were giving tacit support to the abusive practises of a psychologically ill mother. Even after this mediation session Terrie’s mother continued to occasionally disrupt our Saturday meetings with impunity.

The mediators expected me to offer Yoko custody, presumably because she was the mother and Japanese. I wanted a resolution to the marriage problems and really had no other choice. In addition to custody I also offered Yoko full ownership of our house of which I’d invested at least ¥7.6 million. I also offered child support of ¥20,000 p/month. In return I asked for 2 days a week visitation and vacations with my son. Amazingly, she rejected this, greedily demanding ¥50,000 and supervised vacations only, with herself as supervisor. The mediators, far from finding this offer reasonable actually asked me to raise my monthly support, as Yoko demanded. Naturally, mediation failed thanks in part to prejudiced and incompetent mediators. I was back to square one.

Post Mediation Problems:

It was December 2002 and there were 3 more weeks to the end of the month following mediation. This is important because I’d paid child support for the month, yet Yoko and her parents returned to becoming fully obstructive and cunning with regard to visitation. I tried all diplomatic ways possible to meet Terrie – phone calls, letters and personal visits – but they obstinately refused to even discuss the matter. I let them know beforehand that I would switch child support into a separate account for the next month until visitation was forthcoming, but still, no reply. When I tried to see Terrie the following month the family’s excuse for denying visitation was that I was not supporting him.

So I informed them that I would deposit support money into Yoko’s account for February with Yoko promising that she “would think about it” with regard to visitation. After I’d deposited ¥30,000 into her account I was later verbally abused in front of Terrie and others in a public place. In fact she was screaming at me, complaining that ¥10~20,000 wasn’t enough and ordered me to leave Japan.

The tenants vacated our house leaving Yoko, her parents and the 2 children to move back in. The family had the door locks changed and continued treating me as an outcast. This was ironic considering Yoko had contributed almost nothing financially to the house until this time. It would have been theft had she not been protected by a marriage license.

Around this time I had little choice but to become more assertive. The police became involved, once because I merely stood outside my son’s kindergarten waiting for him one afternoon. The gates had been locked at my wife’s request. The police simply told me to go home and sort the problem out in court. On another occasion his grandmother called out to people in neighbouring houses to contact the police when I came across Terrie in the street. With no ulterior motives I told his grandmother that Terrie would visit my house for the afternoon but when I picked him up the neighbours who were standing nearby ‘protected’ Terrie from me, reuniting him with his grandmother. Yoko even got Terrie’s (new) primary school involved in keeping me away from him, using malicious lies to mislead people.

One incident in particular seemed to be my downfall for which Yoko, her (second) lawyer and the courts used as a pretext to manipulate the case and put me at a big disadvantage. With Terrie being escorted back home by his mother and school teacher I came up behind them and asked them to stop. I wanted to discuss the situation regarding visitation but Yoko leaned down and told Terrie to run. Without a second thought I stupidly gave chase. With the schoolteacher being there and the lies Yoko had been telling it made things only worse, and would have reinforced people’s misconceptions that I was trying to abduct Terrie. I later learned in a report that Yoko and her mother had frightened Terrie into believing I wanted to kidnap him back to my home country. There had been no precedent for this and it couldn’t have been further from the truth. The indoctrination to get Terrie to fear me had started well before this incident.

District Court and Problems with Visitation, 2003:

While my lawyer was in the process of preparing a divorce suit Yoko managed get in before us. The document she submitted to the District Court stated her reasons for divorce were abandonment and neglect. She claimed, for example, that I had supported our family with ¥10 ~ 20,000 p/month since marriage. She demanded custody, ¥50,000 p/month child support and ¥3 million in compensation. We submitted a counter petition also demanding custody and approximately ¥10 million in compensation. This sum included money I’d paid into her 2 houses.

Fortunately, I was able to obtain enough affidavits and bank documents to prove she had lied in her reasons for obtaining a divorce. So I think it was this, together with my lawyer’s arguments that persuaded the judge to recommend unsupervised visitation within the second or third court session. Even Yoko’s lawyer eventually conceded that this was acceptable although he asked that there be one supervised meeting between my son and I first.

This first meeting was to be held at my lawyer’s office. It was understood that only Terrie and his mother would attend this visitation but she brought other members of her family together with an unknown male acquaintance and demanded that all be present during the meeting. This was unreasonable and, I thought, probably a trick so I declined. I later heard from staff that Yoko, her mother (and the friend) had severely slandered me in front of the children while laughing at their own comments.

A second meeting was arranged at her solicitor’s office. However she fired her lawyer before it could go ahead. The simple reason for his dismissal was that he agreed to visitation. A third attempt back at my lawyer’s office was made for Christmas day but Yoko sent a fax just before the arranged meeting time saying we were neglecting Terrie’s human rights and that she could not agree to visitation, so it was cancelled. I was very familiar with Yoko methods and knew that she was using Terrie in a selfish attempt to ensure visitation would fail.

Following these incidents the case was put on hold until she found another lawyer. The woman she hired was uncompromising and stubbornly adhered to my wife’s demands. To further alienate me and inflict harm on our son, and to strengthen her position my wife got Terrie to write a letter saying; I don’t want to meet (John.) I don’t even want to see him. The reason is that he’s scary and I’ll be sad. Please do not harm mum and I. - Terrie.


Family Court Investigation and Mediation, 2004~2005:

The district court was unable to enforce visitation, only recommend it. Therefore the case was referred back to the Osaka family court for an investigation. This was an ominous development and very regrettable. The investigation consisted of a 3-hour interview for each party and a visit to Terrie’s house and school. Terrie was also required to go to court to give his views.

The Interview: After establishing I spoke some Japanese – although less than adequate for something so important – the lead investigator (of three) started off asking if I’d do the interview in Japanese, even though there was a translator present. She asked me questions for about half an hour based on my wife’s allegations from the first interview. I then requested to speak in English but the investigator insisted that I continue answering in Japanese. I thought this was very unfair for 3 reasons:

  1. I believed the investigation was supposed to be impartial with an emphasis on hearing both sides of the story clearly. How could they do this when my version of events was marred by stumbling Japanese. It was only near the end of the interview when I was at last able to continually respond in English.

  2. Near the end they were pushed for time. In addition to the amount of information this was also to do with my less than fluent responses. I wanted to introduce some video and audio evidence to back up my claims but apart from 1 or 2 relevant pieces they were quite reluctant to view this.

  3. Although I specifically remember explaining certain points with regard to exaggerated or false claims by my wife – for example, the chasing incident – I was obviously not taken seriously as there was no mention of it in the report to show impartiality and balance.

If the court wanted to know my Japanese ability they should have tested me at a different time under different conditions, not in such a crucial interview.

The investigators’ written report was extremely disappointing. There were a multitude of problems with it including erroneous dates and significant omissions from my testimony and affidavit. This made it misleading and favoured my wife. In fact, when I compare my wife’s affidavit with my own, it strongly appears as though the investigators had taken information only from her document and ignored mine altogether.

There was also a double standard. For instance, Yoko had always taken Terrie whenever she didn’t get her way but the report euphemistically referred to this as “separation.” On the other hand, Yoko and her mother have been quoted using phrases such as, “he wanted to take the minor away” or, “…take (Terrie) to a foreign/his home country,” which gave the impression I was attempting abduction. The incidents in early 2003 where I tried in earnest to meet my son were being used as a weapon against me.

Even though the report gushed how close the mother-son relationship was they did allow Terrie visitation with me, but made they made it feel more like a reward than a basic human right. Apparently visitation was permitted only after Terrie’s interview where he said he wished to meet me, and was not based on a parent’s right to regularly see or be responsible for his child.

The lead investigator for the case denied our claim that Terrie had been mind-controlled and alienated from me. The PAS documentation we submitted became irrelevant and evidence of PAS and child abuse became much less pertinent based solely on the investigator’s opinion that “Terrie is too smart to have been brainwashed.” Amazingly, this investigator burst into uncontrollable giggling on the first day of mediation when I was being told my wife would not allow visitation. In subsequent mediations she haughtily rejected audio and video evidence I wanted to present, and she smirked when I tried to raise points about her report.

The first visitation was held at the Osaka family court in a room with wall-mounted cameras and a two-way mirror. Although it went quite well with the session being slightly extended I thought it was unnecessary and unfair. In fact it was humiliating being forced to see my son in this overly protected environment after his mother’s scheming and obstruction had seen the case swing in her favour. Following this meeting supervised visitation was allowed at a park once every second Sunday for part of the afternoon. The hours were slowly extended after each mediation.

In early 2005 the female investigator was transferred and one of the other investigators took her place. The new guy rarely held eye contact or asked questions and seemed to concentrate on taking notes. However, we could understand his true feelings during a brief video I showed to the court. In the video Terrie freely and happily expressed his view that he would like to visit my house every day, or at least as often as possible. The mediators took interest in this but the investigator, sitting just to the side of the laptop, could not even be bothered to look at the screen. When the video clip had finished he responded with something like; ‘Terrie might feel this way now but when he gets to junior high school age it’ll be different and he won’t want to see his father so much.’ This was speculation and clear discrimination in support of the mother. My lawyer had some words for him so that, after a break, the investigator’s attitude had changed quite dramatically. He began asking me questions and appeared interested for a change. Unfortunately, this newfound interest lasted for that particular session only.

Because of the results of the investigators’ report I was expected once again to offer custody to Terrie’s mother. I recall the court leading me up to this with a mediator asking; “So except for Terrie’s teeth did you see any other problems?” I was surprised at this question. How could the court expect me, a person with no qualifications in child psychology, to determine whether Terrie was OK based on afternoon visitation twice a month? The process seemed superficial and predetermined. Neither did the court apparently take precedent into account. Even during the first mediation I remember one of the mediators talking about Yoko saying, “She says she’s better now.” This was not long before she was readmitted to a psychiatric hospital.

As with the first mediation, the 2005 mediation also failed. In addition to giving Yoko custody I offered ¥30,000 in child support and the house. She refused to go into joint ownership anyway. In return I asked for reasonable visitation and vacations, as well as an approximate settlement of about ¥4 million for money I’d invested in her houses etc. Yoko responded with a ¥500,000 settlement proposal and offered to pay me in monthly installments of ¥10,000.

The case has now moved back to the district court and a third mediation is underway with the judge overseeing this.

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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