American father in custody case released from Japanese jail

Christopher Savoie was jailed in Japan after trying to get kids back from their mother.
An American man who had been accused of trying to take his children from his ex-wife was released from jail on Thursday and charges against him were dropped.

Police in the rural southern town of Yanagawa said Christopher Savoie was let go, but did not say whether authorities set any conditions for his release, such as requiring that he leave the country immediately. Savoie, 38, a Tennessee native and naturalized Japanese citizen, allegedly abducted his children — 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — as his ex-wife walked them to school on September 28 in Yanagawa. With the children, Savoie headed for the nearest U.S. consulate, in the city of Fukuoka, to try to obtain passports for them. Screaming at guards to let him in the compound, Savoie was steps from the front gate but still standing on Japanese soil when he was arrested. Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said her office had been notified that Savoie would be released Thursday afternoon. “We are pleased to learn he was to be released,” she said. “The U.S. government, together with the Japanese government, will try to find a long-term solution to the joint custody and parenting issues.” Savoie and his first wife, Noriko Savoie, were married for 14 years before a bitter divorce in January. The couple lived in Japan but had moved to the United States before the divorce.

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Noriko Savoie was given custody of the children and agreed to remain in the United States. Christopher Savoie had visitation rights. On the day that the children were to start school in August, Savoie learned that his ex-wife had fled with them to Japan. After the abduction, Savoie filed for and received full custody of the children. Police in Franklin, Tennessee, issued an arrest warrant for his ex-wife. However, Japan is not a party to a 1980 Hague Convention law on international child abduction. Japanese law also follows a tradition of sole-custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and lifelong break from the children. Complicating the matter is the fact that the couple is still considered married in Japan because they never divorced here, police said. In addition, Japanese authorities say, the children hold Japanese passports. Foreign parents have had little luck in regaining custody, the U.S. State Department said. So Savoie flew to Japan to get his children back — and landed in jail.