Jodi - posted on 07/15/2011 ( 8 moms have responded )
Abducted children taken to Japan
It's a parent's nightmare: a couple splits up, and one parent abducts the child or children and flees overseas.
There has been a spate of cases where children have been taken to Japan.
Parents whose kids were taken there without their consent say the Australian Government is failing to prevent future abductions.
They say Japanese consulates are freely issuing new passports to parents who want to abduct children.
Queensland university lecturer, Matthew Wyman, says about two-and-a-half years ago, his Japanese wife took his two young sons to Japan and never returned.
After a long battle, he finally organised a divorce in December last year.
"My ex since then has reneged on all the promises, including changing their names - they now have her name," he said.
"The Australian Child Support [Agency] are now involved and basically forcing myself, as well as fathers, to pay child support to the abductors of our children."
Japan is not yet a signatory to the Hague Convention on cross-border custody.
As a result, overseas parents have no recourse if their child is abducted to Japan.
Already struggling emotionally, Mr Wyman says when he spoke with Australia's Child Support Agency, his situation got worse.
"I called them up and I politely explained the situation. I explained that my wife had abducted the children and I couldn't understand why if someone abducts your children and then an Australian citizen is forced to pay child support," he said.
"Her response was 'well, I don't care if your children have been abducted. I don't care if you have to pay child support. I don't care if you can't see your children, there are many fathers who cannot see their children. You will pay up or else. Are you a deadbeat father?'
"And I literally fell of my chair. I couldn't believe it."
According to Mr Wyman, the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office investigated his complaint about that conversation, but told him that they were unable to find the recording of that particular phone call.
Grown men in tears
Mr Wyman says his pleas for assistance have been bounced between Australian government agencies and ministerial offices.
Instead he decided to help himself, by forming a support group with other parents in a similar situation.
"We had a father from Sydney, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast," he said.
"It was very emotional for a lot of fathers, we had grown men here actually in tears, you know, just, retelling their story about not being able to see their children.
"[For] some of the fathers, the children were abducted when they were babies, and ... a lot of these fathers [had] the realisation that their children don't even know they exist."
Teacher and father, Scott Beckingsale, drove from Adelaide to be there after his Tiger Airways flight was cancelled.
He says his ex-partner abducted his half-Japanese daughter when their child was three months old.
"One day I came home from work and she had just gone back to Japan," he said.
"After the child was born her parents came to visit us and her father hated Australia, absolutely hated it.
"After they left she wanted to get a passport but she assured me it was just for the registering of our child as a Japanese dual citizen.
"I was a bit suspicious but, when you've got a new child and there's postnatal depression, you try to give trust to the partner."
He says he too has been ordered to pay child support by the Australian Government.
Both men are highly concerned by the situation of a third man in their group.
"He is going through an emotional rollercoaster because he's so scared that his wife can just take off with the children," Mr Wyman said.
"He's got court orders and she's had to surrender her passports.
"But what has happened in the past, a Japanese mother will go to the Japanese consulate, change the children's name, and the Japanese consulate will freely give out the new passports to the Japanese mother."
The group say they want the Australian Government to tighten border checks to prevent future incidents and also not require parents whose children have been abducted to pay child support.
The ABC contacted the Child Support Agency, the Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office, the Japanese embassy and the Japanese consulate in Brisbane.
Human Services Minister Tanya Pilbersek and Families Minister Jenny Macklin said they were aware of the matter and are looking into it.
So what do you think? Should these fathers, who have absolutely no legal recourse to get their children back, or even any sort of visitation, because their partners actively abducted the children, have to pay Child Support? What do you think of the Child Support Agency's response? And what if it were a case of a mother abducting a child to another state without the permission of the father (or court), should he have to pay child support in that instance too?