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JAL and H.I.S. Sued in Parental Kidnapping Case

Here is an interesting case on parental kidnapping,  “US dad sues Japan Airlines after ex-wife left with son,” that will be closely watched.

A US man has sued Japan Airlines, claiming it wrongfully helped his Japanese ex-wife leave the United States with their son, despite court orders that the child remain in California.

Scott Sawyer alleges the airline and a US travel agency agency knowingly assisted his ex-wife, Japanese national Kyoko Sawyer, take their son Wayne to Japan in December 2008 when the boy was two years old.

“There is a long list of red flags that existed in this case that should have caused the airline and travel agency to do something,” lawyer Mark Meuser told AFP on Saturday.

The companies were “deliberately turning blind eyes to the known parental kidnapping problem endemic to Japan and the warning signals surrounding this case,” Meuser added in a statement.

From a previous BT post[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, pg. 35 (full), dated November 18, 2009] :

By the way, here is what one lawyer in Japan thinks about the parental kidnapping issue when it involves a Japanese woman and a non-Japanese husband.

“A Japanese woman gets married to a foreigner and has a child. However, wife and husband don’t get along and she brings the child with her back to Japan. We, Japanese, react with a mere “Uhm”.

Here stories such as the ‘evil’ husband one day comes back home after work and finds no one at home because she went back to her parents` house are ordinary and don’t become a reason for a divorce lawsuit.

However, abroad this is called ‘child abduction’ and is considered a crime. In particular, in case of Japanese women, there are often cases in which they won’t listen [to their ex-husband], they ignore his letters and don’t even let him know where they live. […] For this reason, U.S., U.K. and France are urging Japan to join the Hague convention.

However, here such cases do not apply to International law but to household law and it’s not good to globalize everything in every case. Every country should be free to deal with the matter according to its own culture and it’s not that easy to say without any hesitation whether one should or should not sign the treaty.”

In 2010, it was reported:

[Via  The Economist] : “In effect, the country (Japan) allows a Japanese parent to breach custodial arrangements for a child being brought up abroad and abduct her back to Japan. There the courts invariably rule against the foreign parent’s claims. The instances of Japanese marrying a foreigner have been climbing fast, and in Japan now represent 5.6% of all marriages. International divorces represent a relatively higher proportion, meaning more children who are vulnerable.

Some 200 cases have been recorded of children of overseas nationalities abducted to Japan. The figure may be much higher if cases of marriages involving other Asians rather than Westerners are included. Britain has tracked 38 cases since 2003, usually involving a Japanese mother bringing her child to Japan. No case, says the British embassy in Tokyo, has been resolved to the satisfaction of the British parent. Click here for more.

[Via Japan Today’s repost of Japan Inc.’s Terrie Lloyd’s article]

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan, they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back—something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero repatriations of abducted children from international marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary and their wish to maintain 19th century customs in the face of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20 years now to be “studying” the issue. That’s Japan-speak for “we’re not interested in making any changes.” Click here for more on this article.

You can read the rest of the JAL / H.I.S. – Sawyer story here. Previous BT stories on parental kidnapping and custody issues in Japan can be found here and here.

For additional information on international parental kidnapping relating to Japan, you may visit United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs at


  1. supremeliberal supremeliberal

    If JAL does not fight the suit, their planes can be seized when they land in the US on the tarmac. i know their are a lot of anxious American parents, knowing that their children are being exposed to radiation in Japan. Living with their kidnapping mother. the radiation exposure of their children should be an incentive for the women too cooperate with their ex spouses, regardless of how they may feel about their ex ,they could at least not let the children be exposed too unnecessary radiation in Japan. most mothers would be happy knowing their children would be in a safe environment.

    • supremeliberal supremeliberal

      What i really meant in previous post, If JAL does not fight these civil charges against them, the Court can seize their planes and other assets that they have. In America ,the courts usually frowned on people that interfere with child custody cases, people have been held in contempt of court and serve time for hiding children in custody disputes. Ii do not know the circumstance behind the case ,but judges generally give custody to those that can serve in the best interest of the child, American men generally help with the raising of their children,and are important part of American child life.

  2. Maureen Dabbagh Maureen Dabbagh

    Parental Kidnapping in
    AmericaAn Historical and Cultural
    AnalysisbyMaureen Dabbagh


    About the BookIn 2010, the U.S. Department of
    Justice reported an average of 200,000 cases of parental kidnapping each year.
    More than just the byproduct of a nasty custody dispute, parental
    kidnapping–defined as one parent taking his or her child and denying access of
    the child to the other parent–represents a form of child abuse that has
    sometimes resulted in the sale, abandonment and even death of children. This
    candid exploration of parental kidnapping in America from the eighteenth century
    to the present clarifies many misconceptions and reveals how the external
    influences of American social, political, legal, and religious culture can
    exacerbate family conflict, creating a social atmosphere ripe for abduction.

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