How about foreign couples in Japan?

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I just wanted to hear some advice or thoughts from father's and mother's Japanese or foreigners living in Japan. I really believe that a child needs a father. However I have been in an unhappy marriage for the last 3 years. We are foreigners here but because of my mother being Japanese I can live here long term. I have tried everything to keep the family together but due to alcoholism and violence I realise that I must leave my husband. It sounds bad but I am really thinking of taking advantage of the unfair system here in Japan to take my child away.

I have asked my husband to leave amicably and that I would agree to him having a part in our child's life. However he starts to threaten me and my family so I back down and am waiting for the right moment to leave so that he can't hurt anyone anymore. His own family does not want anything to do with him so I feel trapped. I listen to the stories of the fathers wanting to be with their children and I really feel for them. If you were in my husband's situation what do you think is the best way to deal with this situation.

Posted By:
Andrew (51 posts)
3/5/2004 9:20:52 AM
re: How about foreign couples in...   profile
It sounds bad but I am really thinking of taking advantage of the unfair system here in Japan to take my child away.

Hi Sue,

Well it's interesting to hear your side of things! I can tell you from other people's stories that Japan is a country that views status quo custody of children as a method of determining who will get outright custody. In plain English, if your husband was to take your child away from you one day and have unofficial custody, he would have advantage in the family courts. Of course, nationality will come into this. If you are "more" Japanese than he is (via your mother's nationality), they may seek to protect your interests. In any case, what IS clear is that either you or your husband would get sole custody, and that the non-custodial parent would not have any legally enforced visitation rights. A clean break is what the courts want. The family court will act on behalf of one side or the other, but never both. It just so happens that the majority of non-custodials in Japan are fathers (read About section) and hence this site.

Whatever happens, tread with care if you involve the Family Court - they will not view you as Japanese even if you look Japanese but your passport says otherwise. It's not easy to predict how they would take a case such as yours (both of you being foreign).

If you were in my husband's situation what do you think is the best way to deal with this situation.

If your husband loves his child, and is frightened of losing him/her, all he has to do is realise how family law works in Japan. If he doesn't clean up his act he's going to be another estranged father (that is, if the family court decide this) - in any case, if you involve the family court - you are one step closer to that clean break (whether you want to resolve issues or not) - if you mention "rikon" in the mediation , you are crossing the rubicon.

Edited 05/03/2004 15:22:13
japchap (48 posts)
3/6/2004 2:22:10 PM
How about foreign couples in Jap...   profile
Hello Sue:

I have tried everything to keep the family together but due to alcoholism and violence I realise that I must leave my husband.

You have come to an important juncture, if you at last realized that this man is out of control and that he is no good for you... or your child. The part about domestic violence is also very scary. ANY physical violence or verbal abuse between married couples is scary. And to make the kids witness it is absolutely no good for their mental welfare. My own parents argued from time to time, but there was never any physical violence, and at least they both held to common guidelines when arguing. Never belittle the other person or downgrade them based on their unique POV, for instance. There was a basic level of mutual humility and general respect that kept them together for all of the years I was growing up, despite the occasional disagreement.

Spouses that are either physically or verbally abused come to the realization you have, often because of one or more key events that cause them to view their past history with their spouse in a more objective light. People learn to tolerate each other, but sometimes being too tolerant and too often is not a good thing. Respect - yes, it's important. Humility - yes, it's important. But lines do have to be drawn.

If your husband has a problem with alcohol and physical abuse and is making threats, you need to get out NOW. DO NOT WAIT. Muster all of the support of your family and friends, find a safe haven for you to be in, and leave at once with your son. If your life or your son's life is in danger, you are playing with fire by sticking around. Domestic violence, even in Japan, claims the lives of people every year. Don't be one of them.

When I left my wife in December 2002, I unfortunately had to leave my kids with her. I knew that if I took them with me, I could not look after them during the day, and I would be faced with kidnapping charges. I could not prove that my wife was physically abusive, because the abuse she dished out was not so much measured by cuts, scratches, and bruises, but by wounds to the ego, inflammatory and cruel threats, frequent belittling. All of this while I lived under the threat of having my privacy invaded, of her tearing up my books and reading personal letters and diaries I kept, something she never apologized for. After her family turned against me and took her side completely, finally even turning my older daughter against me and twisting her mind up so badly that she never wanted to meet me again unless I bowed down and kissed my wife's feet and pleaded to be "forgiven," I knew it was time to get out. I left the house very early on a Saturday morning. I arranged my own apartment, borrowed money from a friend, and from then on I started my new life. My wife made my life very difficult financially and kept my older daughter from me for six months. But now that I have been out of the house for almost a year and a half, I feel much more at peace with myself. And I even feel more at peace with my wife, even though I still want a divorce from her and I know I could never go back to that. Time is slowly healing the wounds, the hurt of living under her insults, wild mood swings, angry flareups and treating me like half a man for seven years, but I cannot ignore what happened or just pretend it didn't happen at all.

The reason why I'm sharing this with you is because you apparently know that the time is right for you to leave. Do what you need to do, not only for you, but for your child. Act in the best interests of yourself, your child, and your husband. But be prepared. Arm yourself with the love of your own family, friends, people who know and who care. Seek out the advice of counselors and people who have been there. Keep a private journal of what has happened, and keep it safe. But above all, don't let the abuse continue. If you are in danger, GET OUT NOW. Call the police if you have to - Japanese police will be sympathetic and frequently handle cases of DV in Japan. They are legally required to visit the scene in any case if you place that call to 110. Don't be afraid to pick up that phone. If you think there is no chance of salvaging your marriage or of placating your out-of-control husband, start planning your escape route now and don't look back. Good luck, and keep us posted.

- Jeff

Edited 06/03/2004 14:25:33
sue (3 posts)
3/21/2004 3:46:50 AM
re: How about foreign couples in...   profile
Thank you for your advice and thoughts. I recently met someone who was abused by his spouse and could not escape because of the threat of suicide and destruction of property. We discussed how to escape and is hard because friends and family then become the target of the spouse. I am the breadwinner and have managed to get daycare for my child despite my spouse losing his job because of his drinking.
I do want to escape right now but the thought of him on a rampage would be the worst. I have called the police but they were unable to do anything as he had not broken any law. He also knew this and laughed at the police...he has no fear of being put away. It only made him more viscious and vindictive. I think a lot of men can also relate to this situation because the police usually believes the woman especially if she is Japanese.
Did you also change your name so that you could not be traced? I think my husband would trace me and kill me if I took his child away. He said he would rather be in prison and kill me and our child than let me go. Do I really want to risk finding out if that`s true? I must be certain that he can`t find me. How do I do that?
japchap (48 posts)
3/22/2004 12:34:42 AM
re: How about foreign couples in...   profile
Sue, I recommend that you counsel with a lawyer. Free or low-cost counseling is available in many parts of Japan. For instance, in Nagoya, you can receive free legal counseling at the Kokusai Center in central Nagoya, simply if you are a foreigner. You need to know what your legal options are.

Whatever happens, from here on, you are going to need all the support and help you can get. There are also facilities here and there in Japan for battered women and women who have suffered from spousal abuse. Even if they cannot help right away, at least calling them may provide some more insights.

If you feel that your husband will lash out at your family and friends for taking your child away from him, then you will have to approach a third-party organization. Family and child abuse facilities in Japan are woefully understaffed and overworked, and there is a limit to what they can do. But at least you need to make your options clear. If meaningful communications with your husband is impossible, and you fear for your life and your child's life by staying at home, it is only a matter of time before you must leave. Don't think of how upset he will get if you leave. Think of what you must do to preserve your life and well-being, and that of your child. Think of the future.

If your family and friends are worth their weight in gold, they should be prepared for the worst, right along with you. Have you told them everything? Do they realize what is going on? Does your husband's family understand, and are they sympathetic?

I would also recommend that you visit a counselor or psychiatric ward yourself, if possible. Get a written diagnosis from them. This will help document your case and provide fuel for you to legally divorce from your husband when the time comes. If your husband has physically abused you, have your friends take photos. Keep hospital receipts or have your friends keep them. You need to start building your case against your husband, for he has shown no cooperation in wanting to repair your broken marriage, and no regard for your life or the life of your child.

I have one other idea. I don't know if this will be helpful for you, but if you are going to leave the house, I would recommend that you gather your family and friends, tell them to come to the house, and have someone bring a video camera and tape recorder. Also, call the police ahead of time, and tell them that you are leaving the house and you believe your drunkard husband will kill you or cause a violent scene. They will show up. It may be a war, but you cannot do this alone, Sue. Abusers need to be exposed for what they really are. And you need to start living a better life with your child, free of the pain of having to deal with his threats and instability.

sue (3 posts)
3/24/2004 8:43:48 AM
re: How about foreign couples in...   profile
Thank you

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