Every Child

Has Two Parents


How to Retrieve Your Child Abducted To Japan



Note: The following is a legally risky scenario, that could land you in a Japanese jail.  I am not a lawyer, and so you should confirm any actions you might take with a lawyer or other law enforcement officials before doing anything so risky.  In any situation outside of the very narrow one I describe below, I wouldn't even consider this course of action.

The hypothetical situation I was imagining was this:

Japanese parent abducts child to Japan, but non-Japanese parent finds out immediately.  Non-Japanese parent has sole custody in Japan where the child is on a separate koseki. (Sole or at least joint custody in the home country would be preferable also.) The non-Japanese parent has an official copy of that koseki.  Non-Japanese parent either speaks Japanese well and can navigate in Japan, or can quickly find people to help who can.  Non-Japanese parent rushes to Japan with copy of koseki, finds child, is able to physically but non-violently gain custody of the child and finds a way to transport self and child out of the country.

This last part is the hardest, since the child will likely have entered on a Japanese passport, and so even if you have a US passport, they may get suspicious on the way out at immigration and stop you.  (If anyone has ideas on how to get around this, please let me know...)

The reason this might work is because 1) Custody is clear.  Japanese parent has no custody rights, even in Japan.   So if you are stopped by police etc, it would be difficult for them to say otherwise.  Not impossible I somehow suspect, but difficult.

2) Japanese parent has not had time to go thru the legal procedures in Japan to get the child onto his/her own koseki or get legal custody. That's why it has to be done quickly.

3) Japanese courts often uphold the status-quo.  There has not been time for the Japanese parent to establish a new status quo.  Another reason this has to be done quickly.

4) Reportedly, Japanese parents themselves often abduct back and forth between themselves.  Reportedly, the police do not interfere when there is no violence.  So it is key to be able to do this without violence. But once done, courts find it difficult to take the child physically away from one parent.  So it may even be possible to stay in Japan and go thru the courts once you have physical custody. Of course you would need local support like relatives or very good friends for that.  And it could take a long long time.

In my non-lawyer, totally layman opinion, the risk of going to jail or getting deported from Japan under these circumstance would be as low as possible.

It has also been reported that the Canadian (and probably the American) embassy will issue emergency travel documentation if a parent with sole custody (and court orders accompanied by children's birth certificates to prove it) arrives at the embassy with the children.  This travel documentation should be accepted by Japanese immigration officials, but you are officially on your own as soon as you leave the embassy.  The problem with this plan, then, is the time it will take to get the children to the airport, and the possibility of the other parent calling the police and making false allegations against you in the meantime.

Question:  If I get a Japanese court to recognize my custody, can I just go pick up my child from school?

Answers:  If you did indeed get custody under Japanese law, you might be tempted to try this anyways.  But I would consult with a Japanese lawyer carefully.  There must be a reason why others have not done this.  (I would appreciate knowing what a Japanese lawyer said, if you do.)  Perhaps people at www.fatherswebsite.com could advise on why this might or might not work.

These days most, if not all kindergartens and schools lock their gates because of crimes in recent years where outsiders have come into the school grounds and attacked children and/or teachers. To enter your children's school you'd probably have to use an intercom or talk to a teacher at the gate and explain your business. If your ex-wife has previously told the teachers that you might show up to try and abduct them because of such and such a lie then you could encounter problems. It's likely the school would also phone her to resolve the situation as they wouldn't want to take responsibility for a potential kidnapping.

IMHO I think the best way would be to take along a companion, preferably Japanese, as well as the court papers proving you have sole custody and guardianship. Request a chat with the school principal to explain the situation. It would be important to ask the school not to call your wife or her relatives. Instead, get the principal to call your Japanese lawyer or even the court for confirmation. Another possible way would be to get your lawyer to call the school principal before you go. The lawyer could also fax him your court papers with you showing the original copies later.



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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