Savoie Case Puts Spotlight on U.S.-Japan Dispute - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Abducted to Japan

Savoie Case Puts Spotlight on U.S.-Japan Dispute

Christopher Savoie Christopher Savoie
8-year-old Isaac 8-year-old Isaac
6-year-old Rebecca 6-year-old Rebecca
Noriko Savoie Noriko Savoie

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A father from Franklin faces up to five years in a Japanese jail.

Police say Christopher Savoie is charged with trying to abduct the two children who were abducted from him by his ex-wife.

It all sprang from a bitter divorce right here in Middle Tennessee. Now, it's drawing attention to a big dispute between the U.S. and Japan.

The problem: Here in Tennessee, the laws are on the father's side. But, right now, he's being held in Fukuoka, Japan -- where the laws appear to be on the side of his ex-wife.

Overnight, news of the international child custody battle spread across the globe.

Japanese authorities say Savoie picked up his children -- 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca -- as his ex-wife walked them to school.

He then raced to the nearby U.S. Consulate where, according to a press officer there, he wanted to get U.S. passports for the children -- apparently so he could bring them back home.

Noriko Savoie called their version of 911, and police intercepted him at the consulate.

This is what he told NewsChannel 5 Investigates before his trip: "In Japan, I have no rights. Fathers have little or or zero chance, pretty much of ever getting custody awarded to them or even visitation. There's not visitation in Japan for fathers."

Remember, Christopher's ex-wife, Noriko Savoie, had abducted the children to Japan back in August, in violation of orders from a Williamson County court.

Franklin, Tenn., police issued a warrant for her arrest.

But the problem for Christopher and the kids is that Japan doesn't recognize family court orders from the U.S.

The Obama administration had recently renewed efforts to press Japan to sign what's called the Hague Convention.

Read May 2009 statement from U.S. on Japan's parental abduction laws (.pdf)

That continued as the U.S. Embassy in Japan reacted to Christopher's arrest. Here's what a press officer told CNN:

"The Department of State is aware of this problem of parental abduction and considers this a high priority. Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S. but, on this issue, our points of view differ. This is often frustrating and fruitless for the custodial American parents. Our two nations approach divorce and child rearing differently. Parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan. We're eager for our relations to improve on this issue."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka says Christopher Savoie was trying to get passports for the children, apparently to bring them back to Tennessee.

They, like him, are considered American citizens. So it's not clear what kind of position that would have put the U.S. government in if they had made it inside.

The U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka says it has provided him with a list of Japanese lawyers who might be able to represent him. What's not clear is what's going on behind the scenes.

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