Japan Tough on Divorced Fathers

Filed under: Divorce & Custody, In The News, Weird But True, Single Parenting

Japanese Baby

Japanese kids whose parents divorce end up with Mom 90 percent of the time, leaving Dad out of the picture. Credit: makistar, Flickr

Christopher Savoie's ex-wife defied their American custody agreement and fled with their two children to Japan.

Now even though she broke the law, he's in jail.

Japan is notoriously unsympathetic to single fathers, according to The Associated Press. The law almost always sides with the mother.

Savoie followed his ex-wife to Japan. As the children entered school, he grabbed them and dashed for the American consulate. Japanese police were waiting and arrested him.

They threw the Tennessee father in jail -- even though the court back home in Williamson County granted him full legal custody of 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca when his Japanese ex-wife violated the law and left the U.S.

Japanese authorities are deciding what to do with Savoie. There are all sorts of international entanglements. Although Savoie has custody -- under American law -- the Japanese government is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

International legal wranglings aside, divorced dads in Japan say the case highlights a fundamental imbalance in their country's attitude toward parents. Japanese law does not allow for joint custody. Only one parent can care for the children. According to statistics from Japan's Ministry of Justice, 90 percent of the custody cases last year favored the mother.

"In Japan, nobody thinks it's a problem if a mother takes away her children without consent," Hideki Tani, a lawyer who works with fathers seeking access to the children, told the AP. "Here, it's common for either parent to completely lose contact with children, but people outside Japan find it outrageous."

Another father, Mitsuru Munakata, is afraid because his ex-wife remarried. If she dies, Japanese law gives full custody of the child to the stepfather.

"Then I'm totally out of the picture," he told the AP. "When I have an urge to see my daughter, I worry that I might get arrested someday."

Related: Court Says Punish Kids for Skipping Visits With Dad

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