Part 1 Transcript:
Q: When where and how did you meet your wife?
Kevin: She was studying at Loyola University in Chicago. It was a private university. That is where we first met. We communicated through email for a while and then we met. We continued to spend time with one another after that.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Japan?
We were living in Alaska at the time. Ummm. Maybe I should back up. We were living in Japan for one year. Then we moved from Japan to Alaska. Then my wife became pregnant. Our son was born with club foot. That is where both of the feet are turned in. So he needed medical treatment. Where we were living in Alaska, they did not have the medical treatment he needed. We were living in a small village and even if we were to go to a bigger city in Alaska they still did not have treatment for club foot. We decided that Japan would be a better place to live because of health care reasons for our son. So that is how we ended up back in Japan.
Q: You lived in America for a while and then came here and then back to America?
Q: When you first got married you were planning to stay in the states?
Kevin: Yes, initially we were planning to stay in the states.
Q: When did you separate with your wife?
Kevin: We separated in March of 2007. At the time I thought my wife was still living in Nagoya. But, six months later I found out she had moved from Nagoya to Kumamoto. Which was an 11 hour bus ride from Nagoya.
Q: Is she originally from Nagoya?
Kevin: Yeah, She is originally from a city called Chita which is very close to Nagoya.
Q: What was the separation like? Was it quite amicable or ..?
Kevin: Not really, When I came to Japan I was hoping to spend more time with my son. I wanted to catch up on some time we had missed together. That wasn't possible. My wife already had a routine set up. My son would go to day care after breakfast. Then he would spend most of the day away from the house and I am not exactly sure where he was for the whole day. I knew he came back about 7pm everyday when my wife got back from work. So the only time I could spend with my son was about an hour in the morning before he left and an hour at night when he returned. I complained about that. I complained about not being able to spend more time with my son. And it is what led to the separation.
Q: Did you talk about the separation or did she just suddenly leave?
Kevin: We got into a disagreement. Again about how much time I could spend with my son. And she left for the night. I am not sure where she stayed. But she took our son with her. About 2 days later she came back and we talked a little bit. And she decided the separation should be longer term. So it really wasn't an amicable separation. She took my son and left and I did not know where she was for 6 months.
Q: And you wanted to work things out?
Kevin: Yes. I suggested we see a counselor. She refused that idea for a long time. But we did see a counselor just one time for a few hours and that was a total disaster. She was very angry with the counselor. He was trying to get both sides of the story. She did not want to talk about the problem she wanted to explain her feelings on the issue. It was kind of a heated discussion. It wasn't good.
Q: And you never went back?
Kevin: No, that was the only time we met with a counselor. During this time we did meet 3 times at court. So my wife did file for divorce. The first meeting is called a chotei procedure and it is kind of a mediation. There are 2 retired Japanese people. There is a court officer. There was also a translator for me. So these 3 people and my wife told me divorce was best for my son. You can file for visitation later. If you love your son you will sign these divorce papers. I wanted no part of that. I wanted joint custody. I wanted to share the responsibility of raising my son. But in Japan there is no joint custody. You only have sole custody and one parent is awarded custody of the child. And the other parent is expected to play a very small role in the raising of that child. Many times after the separation the father or mother doesn't get to see the child again.
Q: When you had the conversation about separation did you talk about who would have the child or what would happen with the child?
Kevin: There was no discussion. My wife automatically took my child and there was no discussion of who would get him. Maybe she thought since he was two it was in his best interests but no there was no discussion.
Q: Just because she is a woman?
Kevin: I don't know what her reasons were.
Q: She did not explain why?
Kevin: She was always very elusive. She did not like to explain anything. It was like, we will do things my way and if you don't like it then that is two bad.
Q: How long ago was the separation?
Kevin: The separation was in March of 2007, so about 2 and a half years ago.
Q: How many times have you seen your son since then?
Kevin: From March of 2007 to November of 2007 I did not see him. In late November of 2007 I paid my wife 250,000 yen and she started to let me see my son once every 5 weeks. But I had to travel from Nagoya to Kumamoto by bus to see him. I would spend about 7 hours with him and then return to Nagoya the next day. That worked out pretty well for a little over a year. Then I think she was expecting me to sign divorce papers. So legally we are still married. I did not want to sign the divorce papers because some of the things she promised in her email she would not put onto writing. Because she wouldn't put those things in writing I refused to sign divorce papers.
Q: So she said you can't see him anymore?
Kevin: Right, she said no more visits until the divorce is final. The last time I saw my son was in January of this year (2009).
Part 2 Transcript:
Q: What rights do you have now?
Kevin: According to the Japanese Constitution I have a right to see my son. According to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC), I should be allowed access to my son. There is really no law that specifies that I can see my son. No Japanese law anyway. It is kind of expected that within the Japanese legal system that the courts, the judges, and the police will not enforce any orders that are set forth by the court.
Q: Have you kept in contact with your wife during this time?
Kevin: No, part of her agreement or arrangement was that she wanted no contact from me. I was suppose to send no emails, no letters, no gifts, no phone calls, so zero contact. Once I did send my son a gift. A package in the mail. A few day later I got an email from my lawyer telling me you shouldn't have sent that package. She was upset with that. I said well it is just a gift for my son. My lawyer said the court will look upon you unfavorably for sending gifts or trying to make contact.
Q: What is the reason behind that?
Kevin: That is a good question. The person in custody of the child pretty much has all of the control and all of the power. And if you disrupt that agreement or arrangement the court supposedly doesn't look upon you as someone who is trying to work on a mutual agreement.
Q: So where are you at now?
Kevin: I have been working for several months trying to get visitation rights to my son. It is a very slow procedure. I am working with my lawyer. We file the paper work. It seems like there is a meeting about every six weeks. It is mostly waiting. In the first meeting the court investigator asked me a bunch of questions. How often do you want to see your son? What is your background? How long have you been in Japan? The same questions you asked me, where did you meet and things like that. The second meeting was six weeks later. It was an informal meeting. This is the judge. I want to see my son more often and that was kind of it. The next meeting which is at the end of this month, hopefully, something will be decided about visitation at that time. There is no guarantee but that is what I am hoping for.
Q: So your wife has not accused you of anything or said there is some kind of reason that you shouldn't see your son?
Kevin: The only thing she said is that my son is afraid of English. So I guess that is her reason for not letting me see my son, which I don't think is accurate because I have been able, during a one year period, where I had visitation once a month, a few of those times it was just my son and I. She was at work or she went somewhere else. And my son and I were able to communicate a little bit in English and a little in Japanese. But he had a good time and he was not afraid of English then so I wouldn't think he would be afraid of English now.
Q: So does he speak English now?
Kevin: Not really, no. His is pretty much 99% Japanese. He knows a few English words Good job, That is great, yes, and no. But for the most part he does not speak any English.
Q: How do you plan on communicating with him when you next see him?
Kevin: Well, I have been studying Japanese for a year and a half. I plan on continuing. I study as much as possible. So in my free time I do many different things. Reading, writing, I take private Japanese lessons, so I am working on improving my Japanese. So I can communicate more with my son in the future.
Q: So that is your main motivation?
Kevin: Yes, it is.
Q: How different are the laws on child custody in Japan and in the States?
Kevin: In America there is joint custody which means both parents share in the raising of a child. Usually someone is granted custody of the child and they will spend 5 days a week with that child. Every other weekend the other parent would get to see that child. They would spend the night with that child and in this type of joint custody there are arrangements for birthday, winter vacations, summer vacations, where the other parent can spend considerable time with their child. But in Japan it is pretty much sole custody. One person has control of the child and the other person is rarely ever allowed to see the child again. So the laws are very different in both countries.
Q: What is the main attitude toward the law in Japan? Do you think most people are happy with the way it is or is there some indication that it will change?
Kevin: Good question. I am a member of Oyako-net. This group is trying to establish joint custody in Japan. Many members of this group feel that once a month is not enough and many members don't get to see there kids at all. There wife or spouse is preventing them from seeing their child. I know with this group and with similar groups there is a push for joint custody. As far as the rest of Japan I think there is not much awareness on this issue. And Japanese people don't tend to rock the boat they kind of go along with the court arrangements. But, I think there is an effort to change things and I hope change is coming soon.
Q: When you had this court session, what was the attitude like? Did they treat you with suspicion? Did you feel it was professional?
Kevin: During my chotei procedure the first 3 visits to the court, I did not think that was professional. I did not have a lawyer at that time. I was pretty much broke and I couldn't afford a lawyer. And my wife convinced me I did not need one. So those first 3 meetings were very unprofessional and I didn't feel that I was being represented or my voice was being heard. But now that I do have a lawyer I feel things seem to be..., well my voice is getting heard this time. It is still not fair from my viewpoint but I feel it is much better than it was.
Q: So this process must be costing you a lot of money?
Kevin: Yes, it is. It depends on how you go about it but yeah, every time you hire a lawyer it is a lot of money.
Q: Do you know of many other people in Japan with similar cases?
Kevin: American cases? If we talk about international cases I do know of other people from America, Canada, and France; they have the same trouble I do. They don't have access to their child or maybe not enough access to their child. So, yes but there is also a large number of Japanese, mostly fathers, who don't have access to their children as well. So it is a big problem and it is getting bigger.
artist: Kevin MacLeod
track: Future Cha Cha
from: Brooklyn, NY, United States
artist: Kevin MacLeod
track: The Jazz Woman
from: Brooklyn, NY, United States
from: Saint Raphael, France
album at Jamendo
artist at Jamendo
album: Journeys Thru Samsara
from: Watford, United Kingdom
album at Jamendo
artist at Jamendo
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