Custody of 4 children tangled in international law

Published 3:26 pm Saturday, February 11, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota custody battle over four children is tangled in international law.

The custody case between James Cook and his former wife, Hitomi Arimitsu, is expected to be back in a Minnesota court Friday. Cook hasn’t seen his children since October of 2014 when Arimitsu took them to Japan to visit her parents.

At the time, Arimitsu signed notarized documents saying the children would return to Minnesota in time for school that fall, Cook said. They never did.

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Cook took the case to the Osaka High Court in Japan, which ruled in his favor. That was a year ago. Cook said he has tried to bring the children back to Minnesota but Arimitsu hasn’t allowed access to the two sets of twins who were 6 and 11 when Cook last saw them.

“They were odd, and they were real weird around me,” Cook said about his children. “It was obvious, looking over their shoulder all their time at their mother when they were with me. That gave me a sick feeling. I thought, how do I get the kids back?”

Ted Coley, the director of the Office of Children’s Issues with the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the U.S. State Department, said the court system in Japan doesn’t allow someone to be held in contempt of court.

“When a Japanese court orders a taking parent to return to the United States with a child, the parent can ignore that court order and Japan really has no remedy to force them to do it,” Coley said. “They have to find other ways of enforcing that court order.”

Coley said the State Department considers cases like Cook’s to be some of their highest priorities.

“The ambassador to Japan is engaged in this at a regular level to try to resolve these cases and improve their performance to bring all of these children home,” Coley said.