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January 18th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Moises Garcia welcomed his daughter Karina back into his loving arms two days before Christmas.  Garcia is the Milwaukee physician whose wife, Emiko Inoue, abducted Karina to her native Japan almost four years ago.  She did that shortly after Garcia filed for divorce.  Here’s my original post on the case.

As readers of this blog are well aware by now, Japanese mothers who abduct their children to that country are home free.  Japan has long provided a safe haven for them and an iron-clad guarantee that they will never be prosecuted, never have to give up custody or allow the child to have any contact with its father.  Japan has never signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and its laws are radically anti-father.  That anti-father bent goes double for non-Japanese dads.

So how did Garcia manage to get his daughter back?  The answer is simple; Mom made a mistake.  After she snatched Karina and fled to Japan, Garcia went to court in Wisconsin and got a court order giving him custody of the girl.  Of course Japanese courts would never enforce such an order, but Inoue apparently didn’t want to give up her immigrant status, so she tried to sneak back into the U.S.  The moment she set foot in Hawaii, she was arrested by customs officials and eventually extradited to Wisconsin where she was put in jail.

There she was faced with a choice – either her parents in Japan would send Karina back to Wisconsin to live with her father, or Inoue would spend the next seven years in prison.  Inoue apparently decided dad-care wasn’t such a bad thing after all.  This article tells us that Karina has been returned to her father and Inoue has been released from jail (Yahoo.com, 12/24/11).

Nearly four years after his ex-wife spirited their daughter away to Japan and blocked nearly all his attempts to see her, a Wisconsin doctor welcomed his little girl home Friday — just in time for Christmas.

“My heart is pounding, I am very nervous. But ready,” Moises Garcia wrote on his Facebook page as he waited for Karina to clear customs and a psychological evaluation at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

“It is all emotional! I can see the picture passing in my mind of all these four years. I get almost tears. I just don’t know how to react when I see her first. I will do my best.”

Previous news coverage of the case suggested that it marked a brave new world of Japanese cooperation with other countries in international custody disputes.  In my first post, I said that was nonsense; the only reason Karina was being returned was Mom’s mistake.  But for that, the girl would have remained with the some 120 other children abducted to Japan by their mothers.  In that event, Moises Garcia wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Now it seems at least some people are starting to see this case for what it is.

“To date, the Office of Children’s Issues does not have a record of any cases resolved through a favorable Japanese court order or through the assistance of the Japanese government,” the US State Department said on its website.

Congressman Christopher Smith, who has been active for years on child abduction cases, welcomed the news of Karina’s return but said the case was an anomaly as her mother had returned to the United States.

That’s more like it.  This case is indeed anomalous.  Now, it’s true that Japan has agreed in principle to sign the Hague Convention, but western scholars of Japanese family law don’t think that’ll make much difference in Japan’s performance in international child abduction cases.  We’ve seen in the past that judges who want to are perfectly able to distort the plain intention of the Convention to fit their own notions of the “best interests of the child.”  Those interests seem invariably to coincide with the wishes of the mother at the expense of the father’s and the child’s interest in a relationship with him.  If that can happen in England,  I see no reason why it can’t happen in Japan.

I suppose we’ll see.  But in the meantime, I’ve spoken with an expert on international child abduction to Japan who sees the situation in a much more positive light than I did before I spoke with him.  I’ll post a piece on that conversation in the near future.

For now, I’ll just say that it seems to me that Inoue has gotten off pretty lightly.  She violated civil and criminal law by abducting her then-five-year-old daughter.  She kept her from her father for almost four years, and, once caught, she spent a few months in jail before agreeing to turn over the child.  That’s the extent of her punishment.  I’d say her story would discourage precisely no one from doing as she did.

That brings up a couple of final questions that the news media covering the case haven’t thought to ask.  Has Inoue been ordered to pay child support?  If so, when was it ordered and what is the arrearage?  After all, if she was ordered to pay support at the same time Garcia was given custody, Inoue has been building up child support debt plus interest for almost four years.

The second question is whether she’s been granted some form of visitation, and if so, what kind.  Surely no sane judge would give her unsupervised visitation.  That would just be an invitation for her to abduct the girl again.

Hopefully, we’ll know the answers to those questions soon.

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