Lawsuit: Airline, travel agency failed to stop international abduction

It’s no secret that international child custody/child abduction cases involving U.S.-based parents and parents who hail from other countries are becoming increasingly common. In fact, figures from the U.S. State Department indicate that there have been 230 international child abduction cases involving over 321 children opened over the course of the last 17 years.

Fortunately, the parent of an abducted child does have legal options if the country to which their former partner has fled is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention.

In essence, the Hague Convention is an international treaty designed to cut down on international child abductions, meaning children who are kidnapped and taken to fellow signatory countries are promptly returned.

However, one prominent nation that has not yet signed the Hague Convention is Japan.

In fact, the issue of Japanese women returning to their native country with their children and without permission from a court is becoming more of a problem for U.S. fathers. Why? Japanese courts do not recognize foreign family court orders, rarely authorize visitation and almost never grant a foreign father custody rights.

Interestingly, one U.S. man whose child was taken from him is now seeking to draw attention to this growing problem in a very unique way.

Scott Sawyer, a U.S. citizen whose former wife took the couple’s son back to Japan in December 2008 in violation of a custody order from a Los Angeles Superior Court, is now suing Japan Airlines and a U.S.-based travel agency for failing to stop his wife from leaving the country.

“There is a long list of red flags that existed in this case that should have caused the airline and travel agency to do something,” said attorney Mark Meuser in a released statement. “[The two organizations were] deliberately turning blind eyes to the known parental kidnapping problem endemic to Japan and the warning signals surrounding this case.”

While Meuser acknowledged that no U.S. laws require an airline/travel agency to verify custody issues related to Japan, he contended that the defendants should still be held liable and that all airlines/travel agencies should be required to secure legal approval when a single parent is traveling alone to Japan with a child.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about child custody or visitation, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Father sues Japan Airlines after ex-wife left with son (The Brisbane Times)