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How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/14 12:28
Hi everyone,

I don't know what to do and I'm hoping someone on here might know something.

I'm American, been living in Japan for almost ten years, I have Japanese PR, etc. My wife is Japanese, we've been married two years and our son is almost a year old.

The first year of our marriage my wife was mostly pregnant with our son but things were good. She was really excited about becoming a mother and having a baby and even started an organic only diet. Everything up until the point where our son was born was fine.

The after our son was born she goes to her parent's house for two months. I didn't want her to go because I had to stay in Tokyo and work but I went along with it because that's what Japanese women do.

After two months, she comes back to Tokyo and immediately starts working at a izakaya all night until the morning, leaving me alone with the baby every night. And the thing is we were not hurting financially, she told me she needed to get out of the house for her sanity. I later found out she lied to me and was actually working at a hostess bar. I tried to make her quit, she wouldn't listen to me.

Durring this time she would come home in the mornings from work usaully around 7am, sometimes as late as 10am, and always drunk. She made me late for work almost everyday. Also, as a father I did not feel comfortable leaving my infant son alone all day with my drunk sleep-deprived wife.

I talked to my company, they were understanding and allowed me to work from home until they transferred me to the States this past June. So I brought my son and wife to America... My wife gave it a month and then went back to Japan, leaving my son and I in America. It's obvious to me and everyone who has spent time with my wife that she has no interest in being a wife or a mother. She loves our son but she doesn't want the responsibilities that come with being a parent.

My job assignment in America is until next February when I'm supposed to go back to Tokyo. My wife wants a divorce but she also said she wants sole custody of our son. I will not allow this. I will not loose my son. As I said, my son and I are currently in the States and as long as my son is here I beleive the law will be on our side.

The thing is, I am suppossed to return to Tokyo in February in for my job. So I guess my question would be: is there any way for me to get custody of my son in Japan based on my wife abandoning us in America? I know Japanese family law is basically non-existant and children almost always go to the mother. But if anyone can tell me something, I would greatly appreciate it. I love Japan, my job is there, my friends are there but I will not risk returning to Japan if that means loosing my son.

by Lost (guest)  

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/14 15:09
I am sorry that I can't offer any specific advice as I am no expert in this field, but there are quite a number of support groups for such parents who have been or are in similar situations. I don't know any off hand, but I have seen a few on Facebook from time to time, so maybe you should look into them. I am sure some of the members would have some good information.
I would also start looking into lawyers. Could be expensive, but money shouldn't be an option when it involves your children. A lawyer would be able to provide you accurate information and a strategy to sort the situation out.
Although I have no experience of such a situation, my gut feeling is returning to Japan could mean not gaining custody of your son, whereas staying in the US might be a better option if you want custody of your son.

GOod luck and I hope everything works out for you and your son, whatever that may be.
by Tough (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/14 17:07
I'm sorry to hear what has happened - I cannot offer any specific advice, but I think it would be wise to get hold of a competent lawyer.

In your favor:

- Her past irresponsible behaviors: leaving the child solely in your care while she worked at a hostess bar, coming back drunk, lying to the husband about it on top of it, and abandoning you and the child in the US.
- The fact that you asked the company so that you could work from home, and did take care of the baby, while she neglected all your hours and everything - I hope there is some correspondence with HR and your work record to back that up.
- Currently you ARE taking care of the baby.
- Currently she "may not" have a decent job to support herself and the baby.

Against you:

- Her abandoning the child (and you) in the US "could" be excused as her being unable to adapt to the totally new environment, so she left in panic, etc. (You would need to reinforce the fact that she was already an irresponsible mother when you were in Japan. Would you be able to get record of her employment at the bar/testimony about the hours of work at the bar/absence from home, etc?)
- She might claim that in Japan, herself, her parents, relatives, etc. are all around her to support herself and the baby, so that the living environment with her would be better for the baby. She can easily claim that you will be alone in Japan so you cannot possibly take better care of the baby than she.
- With infants, custody tends to go to the mother, absent special circumstances.
- She can slander about your behaviors or whatsoever, and the family court might listen to her.

It will be easier for you the longer you stay in the US and show that you can take/are taking care of the baby yourself. Yet if she decides to make the bold move and come to where you are living, and run off with the child, there will be nothing you can do about it.

I hope that things work out well for you.
by AK rate this post as useful

... 2012/9/14 17:53
Sorry to hear of your story.

If you do return I'm sure you will need a good lawyer, and even then the risk of losing your child may be quite high.

I'm not sure how much you've searched but a couple of pages that may be useful include:-
by GC3 rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/15 22:04
You need to seek legal advice now - & speak to legal experts in your own country as well as experts in Japanese law.
Note, if you return to Japan then naturally Japanese law will apply.
It's a very complex area & your assumptions about Japanese law & family law in particular being non-existent are incorrect. In Japan many males are in fact granted custody of their children.
There is a lot of one-sided hype & hysteria in the English language media about custody issues. And some of the content on the Japan Children's Rights page is highly questionable. Notwithstanding this, some parents are facing real struggles.
The fact is if you return to Japan then you will be subject to Japanese law. This is confronting for a lot of people who expect the law of their home country to protect them or international agreements to apply.

There are a lot of factors to consider: One of which is; What's the citizenship status of your child?

by lee (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/16 11:16
Hi everyone,

Thank you for all the kind & helpful replies. I guess to clarify, my son has duel American/ Japanese citizenship... he was born in Japan.

I am also aware that because of his duel citizenship, the US state department would be limited in their ability/ or unable to help us should we return to Japan.

And in response to Lee, what I meant was: yes, family law exists but there is no concept of joint custody in Japan and there are no mechanisms in place to enforce what the Japanese family courts order. So in that regard, I said Japanese family law is essentially non-existant.

I've already spoken to lawyers in the US and my case is strong for gaining sole custody of my son based on the fact that my wife basically deserted us.

But even if a US court grants me sole custody, it's unlikely a Japanese court would recognize it.

My son is the most important thing in my life and if that means loosing the home I've had in Japan for the past ten years, so be it.

I just wanted to know all of my options and, as others have suggested, I will most likely need to consult with a Japanese family lawyer as well.

Thanks everyone.
by Lost (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/17 07:41
Sorry I have nothing concrete to suggest, and you seem well aware of the risks and dangers you face in going back to Japan, so I will just offer this perspective:

If you cannot work out a situation with your company that doesn't involve transferring you back to Japan, remember that any financial hit you suffer from changing jobs may be more than offset by not having to pay lawyers, by not being wracked by worry about your son, and (in the worst case) by not being heartbroken over having lost your son.

Good luck.
by Good luck (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/19 11:38
I am not a lawyer and I agree with everyone you should get a lawyer advice not use japan guide. However if it was me I would start collecting any evidence you can of your wife's irresponsible behaviour, it seems harsh but anything that could later be used as proof she is "a bad mother" such as emails, diary entries, mutual friends or neighbors who can corroborate your story of her coming home late and drunk. Any proof of her hostess job, drunkenness, lack of care or neglect towards the child, get the name of the hostess bar where she worked etc etc. Collect it all together and give it to the lawyer when you explain your story. Of course you need a lawyer but a lawyer needs evidence to build you a strong case or they are powerless to help. You have two things against you, 1.you are a man and 2.you are foreign. Japanese custody laws famously have a racist sexist bias towards Japanese mothers. So you are going to have to work harder than her. based on what you described it is blindingly obvious that you should have custody, either joint or sole. Good luck!
by tokyoguy (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/19 16:55
Hi there, sorry about your troubles now. I'm here not to advice on anything but to share my experience: I'm going thru a bitter divorce now because of my husband who is a gambler, drained my savings, now his dad is going to sell his house to pay off his debts. I will not trust him anymore and I simply has no feelings for this guy already. I have a infant son too, which I easily could get the custody. I understand how you feel, super stressed and tired, heart broken too. I wish you luck and do update us on your case? Thanks.
by Christine (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/19 18:23
If you return to Japan with your son, and your wife still demands a divorce and sole custody, in all cases except none (published)---the family court will award child custody to the Japanese spouse. In reality, honest lawyers will respond upfront that there is no fight. Frequently without Japanese spouse's consent, the foreign parent has no visitation rights.

Currently, if the Japanese spouse rejects the child's responsibilities in the divorce, then there is a chance.

Similarly cases happen in S Korea, China and India and other Asian countries where domestic family laws supersedes foreign national authorities.

by Donaldl rate this post as useful

Re: How do I get custody of my son in Japan? 2012/9/21 03:12
Find a way to stay where you will not have to worry about the upbringing your child is being provided.
by wata geiru rate this post as useful

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