“Does the word parental in front of kidnapping make it less of a crime?”
That is a question poignantly posed by a New Jersey man and dad whose personal story will certainly resonate with similarly situated men and fathers’ rights advocates across the country, including in Ohio.
That dad is Michael Elias, a New Jersey resident who divorced his Japanese-born wife in New Jersey at her request following his return from a military deployment to Iraq several years ago.
The couple has two children. A judge awarded joint custody and issued an order mandating that the kids’ passports be surrendered.
That dictate was duly abided with, but the woman was able thereafter to secure new and illegally issued passports through the Japanese consulate in Chicago. After doing so, she fled to Japan, taking the kids with her.
What has followed has been a long and unsuccessful odyssey in which Elias’ persistent attempts to reconnect with his children have been unavailing. His story is notable yet representative of others told by so-called “left-behind parents” with children that were summarily taken from the United States to other countries.
Getting those kids back -- about 7,000 were reportedly taken abroad between 2008 and 2012 -- is a daunting and usually failing effort. Some countries have no political ties whatever with the United States. Even for many that do, working with local authorities has not resolved issues.
Japan recently became a late signatory among developed nations of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. Doing so will not help Elias, however, given that the treaty only applies to cases arising following Japan’s inclusion.
What Elias and other left-behind dads want to see are beefed-up political tools that can increase the pressure on foreign countries to intervene in custody cases.
A bill currently being considered in Congress provides for just that. If passed, the legislation would provide for a range of actions to be taken in custody cases that are not moving forward owing to a history of non-cooperation by foreign governments, courts and other actors.
In an extreme case, economic sanctions might be applied.
Source: NorthJersey.com, "Bill may help 'left-behind parents' in global child custody fights," Herb Jackson, Dec. 11, 2013