Both the case of David Goldman and the one of Christopher Savoie have gotten much media attention recently, and since I have not written on the former and have only recently heard of the latter, I felt it was time to write about both.
If there was to be chosen a public face of the left-behind parent, I could think of few better than David Goldman. He was never accused of abuse by his ex-wife. When she died after giving birth to a child in Brazil, any presumption of Sean Goldman’s well-being contingent upon staying with his mother were negated, and he has worked tirelessly to promote his son returning to New Jersey. Much of this publicity has brought attention to the problem of parental kidnapping, especially international kidnapping. Like with many high-profile disappearances, it makes others aware of the problem. On David’s site, linked above, the forums are devoted not only to his case but to many other kidnapping cases that are not nearly as high-profile. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the forums and have posted there many times.) The fact that his apparently ironclad case in a country that has signed the Hague Treaty is still being fought only indicates the lack of consistancy in such cases, as well as the overwhelming need in most of them to put citizens first rather than the best needs of the child. I am also aware some left-behind parents might despair over the case – if all that publicity and support hasn’t brought Sean Goldman back to the US, how will they succeed in getting their own children back?
Perhaps this is what Christopher Savoie was thinking when he decided to go to Japan and try to abduct his kids back. I do not like the idea of taking the law into your own hands in family abduction cases; it can only make matters worse. But on the other hand, he probably knew that he had no chance with the Japanese legal system. Japan has not signed the Hague Treaty, so the country doesn’t even need to make a pretense of trying to return kids. I know of only one case where a child was returned, and he did so on his own at fifteen. And in Japan one parent is expected to disappear after a divorce. (There is one case where a Japanese politician divorced when his wife was pregnant and has a son he has never seen.) Knowing all that, I can at least understand his motivations in trying a re-snatch. He tried to prevent his ex-wife from going to Japan in the first place but the courts said she could visit the country. He very well knew if she left there was a good chance she’d never return. Now he’s being charged with abduction, even though parental kidnapping is supposedly not a crime in Japan. Some have brought up the specter of “cultural relativism” in this case. While I accept that most countries do not share identical values, I am sure most will agree with me that ordering a parent to essentially vanish, and encouraging such behavior by not signing the Hague, is detremential to the child. Even under the idea of another culture’s values access to one’s child is a basic human right that should only be deprived if the parent is a threat to the child’s safety, which is not the case here.
He currently faces five years in jail. I don’t know if he will serve any of this, or will merely be deported. However, this could be the next face of the left-behind parent in the news. And with that could come the stream of publicity that may force Japanese law to change once and for all.