Hello all\it's been quite some time since I've posted, probably a couple of years or somewhere close to that. I'm still living in central Japan, and I've been more or less laying low so to speak in regards to my own family situation. Of course, a lot of things have happened over the past year, but it really wasn't until tonight that I decided to make it public on this forum.
As I had written in previous posts, since Dec 2002 I've been separated from my Japanese wife and two daughters. In August of 2005 (last year), I arrived at a rather unsatisfactory vistation solution with my separated wife in Japan family court. The agreement was that I was allowed to meet my daughters 2-3 times every two months, for four hours each visit. I was quite unhappy with this, but it was the best that my lawyer and I could hammer out. The negotiators in family court neither helped nor worked to persuade my ex- of the benefits of allowing me to see my own children more frequently.
Around July of 2006 (this year), I decided to take matters into my own hands. I discussed the matter of getting a transfer to the U.S. with my current employer, and told my ex- that I could not psychologically tolerate the current situation any more. Through my lawyer, I conveyed to her that I would leave Japan and move back to the U.S. if she did not assent to more frequent visitation, and to allow me more involvement in the lives of my own kids.
After about six weeks of shuttling the matter back and forth, my lawyer and I were able to at last work out a more favorable visitation agreement with my children. As it turned out, my ex- was feeling overwhelmed trying to take care of the kids while she was teaching music lessons during the week, and so she granted me time every Wednesday evening with them, provided it was inside of her house. Further, she also assented to letting me attend my daughter's school events, as she must have been feeling some remorse about it and about how the children had felt without their father's participation. Finally, she agreed to allow extra time with myself and the kids over the holidays, meaning a full day's visit during o-shougatsu with them rather than just a half day.
As you might imagine, this was all very welcome news for me. I could have asked for more time and pressed the issue even harder, but my lawyer helped me to realize that we had already accomplished a great deal, that the agreement was very lenient and even unusual by Japanese standards. Just three weeks or so ago, we held our final out-of-court meeting to settle the visitation matters, and tonight the written agreement is in my hands, ready for my signature. Yet already I have begun visiting the kids on Wednesdays, my ex- has called me to inform me of their school events on the weekends that I can participate in (there are generally quite a few of these in the fall in Japan), and I am starting to feel more like a "real father" again.
I guess I should be dumbfounded at all of this. Still, this four-year road and constant struggle for visitation rights has been long and toilsome. But the benefits are that the kids are starting to warm up to me a lot more than they did before, and there is no longer that feeling of "well, see you in three weeks" that I've had on my previous visits. Now, I know that I will see the kids on Wednesdays, even if the time is limited, and I see them on many weekends. It's not the ideal family situation, granted. But it's much closer to it than what we had before, and it's probably about as good as many visitation agreements for separated families in the U.S. would be.
If there was any advice I could offer to people here who are toiling under what I suffered through for four years, the undesirable separation of parent and child here in Japan, I would say, learn as much Japanese as possible, understand the culture, hire a lawyer who understands your point of view (not one who simply listens and pretends to understand) and has studied law overseas him/herself, live your own life and re-experience the things that make life worthwhile for you during the difficult time away from your children, and build your support system of friends here while you undergo the arduous and painstaking process of working out an agreement. In my case, I've found that time was really what was needed\time to consider things on the part of both my ex- and myself. My ex- still wants me to move back in with her in fact, but after what we had been through, I know that it will never work. Seven years of cohabitation was enough for me to realize the fundamental incompatibilities. But these days, I don't even bother expending the energy to remember the crappy things she did, or my reactions, the fights ad infinitum. Like I said, people do forget over time, and temporary or permanent separation can be a wonderful thing to thaw the hellish fires of marital instability. I only wish that she had thought more about visitation during the first four years.
I'm still not sure how long all this will last. It's very strange to be entering her house (while she is teaching private music lessons to her students) and visiting the kids on Wednesdays. I tell myself, it could change back any day. But then again, things have indeed leveled off, the bitter memories have been pushed aside, and the efforts of rejuvenating frequent contact with my two precious daughters has begun. The visitation schedule, coupled with my work schedule, is a little rigorous! But that's part of being a father, I reassure myself. Back to being a father again.
... And getting back to being a father, in a place like Japan, is a real freedom, one that can only be truly appreciated once it has been taken away for a time.
I would never wish what I had gone through over the past four years on anyone. The countless arguments and meaningless proceedings in family court; the late hours and lost sleep spent hashing and rehashing over documentation that hardly even got looked at much less understood; the frequent bad dreams of being separated from the kids or of meeting them again; the tears and pains of knowing that it was all taken away from me without my consent\none of it. I could demand an apology from my ex-, but at this point in time the issue of lost time is one that should be shelved for better things. She did what she clearly thought was right, I firmly believed and still believe it was wrong, but her cooperation in the here and now has finally put an end to the discussion. I have no idea what the future will bring, but for now, I am content that I did everything I could have done, and the kids stand to benefit from seeing their father once or twice every week with a written agreement.
I thank the people here at FRIJ, my consulting lawyer in the U.S. (Jeremy Morley), my lawyer Kazuhiro Nishiyama in Nagoya, Japan, and most of all my family and friends who helped me each in their own way to get through this. I wish all the best to all of you as well in your struggles for better visitation, fair treatment as a separated or divorced spouse of a Japanese national, and as fathers or mothers of children that, like all children in the world, desperately need to know that their own fathers and mothers are available and that they care.
Edited 11/13/2006 3:00:14 PM
FRIJ recommends you also
visit crn japan,
who are fighting international abduction to Japan and working to assure children
in Japan of meaningful contact with both parents regardless of marital status