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Cases

The below is the list of cases reported in media in relation to International parental abduction in Japan. Please note that some cases involve divorce suit filed in Japan and therefore involve no custodial violation made in foreign court or international parental abduction.

  • Patrick Braden — Mr. Braden and Ryoko Uchiyama had a relationship, but were never married; from that relationship came a Eurasian daughter, Melissa Hinako Braden. According to Braden, Ryoko who had been estranged from her family, due to number of issues including her allegation that her father sexually molested her. After the girl’s birth she renewed contact with her family. Wishing to mend that relationship with them, she wanting to return to Japan. In response Patrick filed for joint custody of their child, which was granted by a Los Angeles court. Ten days after the court’s action, Ryoko with Melissa left for Japan, obtained a restraining order upon arrival. Patrick successfully sued Uchiyama’s attorney for malpractice claiming that the attorney knew Uchiyama’s plan but his suit against ANA airline for allowing her to travel was not successful. He has not seen his daughter since 2006, and continues efforts to see his daughter but after 3 years he is not optimistic.[68][69]
  • Yamila Castellanos – Her Japanese husband abducted their 2-year-old daughter from Cuba to Japan. Allegedly, he forged Castellanos’ signature to obtain a divorce. He has denied Castellanos any access to her child, even though she had legal custody in Cuba. She is fighting in Japanese court without any results. In 2005 she was denied the visa extension needed to stay in Japan.[62]
  • Shane Clarke — In 2008, the wife of Briton Shane Clarke, abducted his two daughters on the pretense of taking a trip to Japan with them to see her ill Grandmother. When he next saw his wife in Japan she informed him that he will be subject to the custody proceedings in Japan. He is now convinced that he will never see his children again.[2]
  • Steve Christie – He claims his son was living with him in Japan but his wife abducted the child and has denied him access to the child. He co-founded the International Association for Parent and Child Reunion in 2009.[70]
  • Nick George – As of 2006 he was separated from his Japanese wife she has denied him access to his 7-year-old son. He alleged that he faces arrest if he attempts to meet with the boy.[62]
  • Michael Gulbraa – In 1996, Michael Gulbraa and Etsuko Tanizaki divorced, and custody was awarded to Etsuko Tanizaki who remarried.[71] Following allegations of her new husband having physically abused their children, Etsuko Tanizaki, fearing she would loose custody, and her sons left for Japan.[71] In 2002, custody of his two sons was awarded to Michael Gulbraa.[71] In 2006, the youngest son travelled on his own to the U.S. Consulate in Osaka, and via Tokyo returned to the United States.[71][72][73][74]
  • Alan Kaneda — In 2003, Alan Kaneda and Chiharu Wakao divorced, in Hawaii where the state judge ordered a joint custody agreement for their daughter Marina. After more than a year of both parties abiding by the agreement, Ms. Wakao moved to Japan without informing her ex-husband. From the safety of Japan she alleges that he was abusive to their daughter, an allegation that was not made while she resided in Hawaii. She has since been indicted on a charge of first-degree custodial interference, a felony.[75]
  • Engle Nieman, a Dutch national, re-abducted his one year old daughter by force then tried to flee to his home country. He was arrested and charged with “”kidnapping for the purpose of transporting the kidnapped person to a foreign country” (Article 226(1) of the Penal Code)” and was detained for four months.[76] He was later found guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for three years.[77] His later appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed.[78]
  • Christopher Savoie — In 2009, Christopher Savoie’s arrest in Japan made international headlines. Savoie, an American born, naturalized Japanese father,[79] divorced his wife, Noriko Savoie, in the United States.[80] The Tennessee family courts granted him joint legal and physical custody once the divorce was finalized.[not in citation given][80] Noriko Savoie agreed as part of her signed divorce agreement and in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and significant alimony payments, to reside permanently with her children in Tennessee and not kidnap the kids to Japan.[81] She was allowed as part of the divorce decree, however, to take the children to Japan for a extended 6 week visit to Japan every year.[81] While she was supposedly on vacation in Japan, she enrolled the children in school and changed their residency to Japan. She and her children returned to Tennessee, and shortly thereafter she abducted them to Japan and Christopher Savoie was subsequently given full custody of the children. He flew to Japan and legally retrieved his children back while his ex-wife was dropping them off at school in Fukuoka. Japanese police mistakenly arrested him for suspicion of kidnapping as he was attempting to enter the local US consulate with his children but he was never charged or indicted.[80] He has since been released by Japanese authorities. The prosecution could not to press charges because Savoie was a legal custodian and the prosecutor suggested to pursue custody of his children through litigation.[82] The case and the issue of parental abduction by Japanese nationals has gained significant publicity in U.S., whereas the initial publicity was much more subdued in Japan.[83]
  • Paul Toland — Commander Paul Toland is the only surviving parent of Erika Toland but he is denied access to his daughter. U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith described Commander Toland’s case as an intrafamilial child abduction, since the case does not involve abduction by a parent,but rather an abduction by a more distant relative.[84][85] The Children’s Rights Council has stated that his case “is like the Elian Gonzalez case, but the aggrieved parent is from the United States, not Cuba, and the country blocking the sole surviving biological parent from contact with his child is Japan.”[86] U.S. In 2003, U.S. Navy Commander Paul Toland, was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.[87] While residing at the Navy housing complex in Yokohama, Etsuko Toland, left with their child, Erika who was only 9 months old at the time.[61][88] In 2005, his wife through the Japanese court system filed for divorce, custody of their daughter. Paul Toland participated in Japanese meditation proceeding after receiving an advice from a military attorney at Yokosuka Naval Base, which, as it turn out, doomed his case.[89] The divorce was finalised in the Tokyo court, on March 10, 2006 and Paul Toland lost custody without any visitation right. In response, Paul Toland sued in various U.S. courts to regain jurisdiction over the divorce and the child in U.S., citing U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement, which state that U.S. servicemen and their dependants fall under U.S. jurisdiction. His wife’s attorney responded claiming that he is forum shopping. The Washington appeal court dismissed his suit calling it “frivolous” and “wholly lacking in merit” and ordered him to pay wife’s legal cost. In the ruling, the court noted that the couple were married in Japan, their child was born in Japan and had never left Japan, establishing the child “home state” as Japan. And the fact that he participated in the Tokyo court proceeding established Japanese jurisdiction despite the Status of Force Agreement.[90][dubiousdiscuss] However, in October 2007, soon after the Washington appeal ruling, Etsuko Futagi committed suicide,[91] and her mother assumed the possession of the child.[25][61] and one source state that she now hold the custody.[92] Erika is now seven, and He alleges that the grandmother has denied him visitation rights while the lawyer who represent the grandmother in U.S. says that he has been given supervised visitation opportunities that he does not take advantage of and he owes years of back child support.[87] He states that he has spend over $200,000 in attorney fees and other expenses and additionally spent hundreds of hours in Japanese and U.S. courts.[93][94] [discuss]
  • PWong — Wong’s Japanese wife Akemi Yokoyama Wong died from cancer after fighting nearly 6 years with the disease. After her death, he relocated to Japan to honour his wife’s wish to care for her parents, as she was an only child, and they were both in poor health and in their 70s and that their daughter, Kaya Wong, would understand her Japanese heritage. Once he moved to Japan, the grandparents refuse to let him see his daughter, who was staying with them while he got settled, alleging that he has sexually abused her.[25][95][96][97] The court ruled that the allegation could not be substantiated by the evidence but still gave custody to grandparents.[98] He is the sole surviving parent, and he has not seen his daughter since 2007.
  • Murray Wood — his children, Takara (10) and Manami (7), were abducted to Japan by his ex-wife, Ayako Maniwa-Wood. A year-long litigation in the Japanese courts ended in failure in 2006.[99][100]

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