A Kirkland mom and former Microsoft senior human resources manager was charged in King County Superior Court last week for first-degree custodial interference, a felony, after she illegally moved her 5-year-old son Maximus to Japan.
The state requested Chie Kawabata, 46, be held on a $100,000 bail due to the “serious concern about the well-being and whereabouts of (the child) as well as the defendants’ unwillingness to follow court orders,” charging documents state.
After a 2012 divorce from her husband Kristoffer Morness, the biological father of Maximus, Kawabata recently packed up her Kirkland home in the north Rose Hill neighborhood, bought a one-way ticket to Japan and directly violated the parenting plan when she made the life-changing decision to uproot her son, court documents state.
Kirkland police were dispatched to her home on July 31 for a welfare check after Morness, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, could not contact Kawabata through Skype after he missed his weekend visitation. Morness had called the daycare where his son attends but the daycare provider hadn’t seen his son or Kawabata that week, documents state.
During the welfare check, an officer saw collapsed cardboard boxes and kitchen contents sitting on a table in a manner that was “consistent with a resident in the process of moving out.”
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Kawabata and her son boarded a Japan Airlines flight to San Francisco on July 26 to Haneda Airport in Japan. Japan Airlines confirmed their tickets were one-way tickets.
Two days later, Kawabata emailed Morness, admitting to being in Osaka, Japan after taking an extended leave from work through August.
“She said that ‘the torment I have endured in the recent years have left me (and therefore [Maximus]) emotionally ruined and have forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take,’” the documents continue.
Morness filed a temporary parenting plan that granted him custody of Maximus and if the two return to the U.S., Kawabata is ordered to hand over her son within 72 hours.
Morness has not seen his son for more than one month.
Morness objected to Kawabata moving with Maximus to Japan in 2012 after Kawabata’s first attempt. Following a trial, the court granted Morness’s objection because “the detrimental effects of relocation outweigh the benefits … court denies relocation in this case, considering the needs of the child, the lack of good faith, the unavailability of alternatives and all the factors the court has laid out.”
Kawabata has no criminal history other than driving violations.
Morness created the website www.chiekawabata.com explaining the story from his perspective.
“My goal is to have Chie Kawabata return to the Washington state jurisdiction with Maximus and face the courts,” his website says. “Maximus needs the protection of the courts and needs his father. Anyone seeking to hire or work with Ms. Kawabata should be forewarned.”
Morness alleges Kawabata has no regard for the rule of law and that she is “prepared to do anything to anyone, including her own child, in order to get her own way.”
Morness states on the website the family moved to the Seattle area after Kawabata got the Microsoft job but their marriage fell apart in January 2011. He then moved to his native Vancouver, British Columbia and “endured two horrifying years of litigation initiated by Kawabata.”
Morness said in a phone interview on Sept. 20 that Kawabata accused him of child abuse; however, he said the courts and police were able to refute those claims.
“It’s just really frustrating to do everything by the book and then get screwed like this,” Morness said.
He added that he doesn’t think Kawabata will abuse their son but because of her frequent job changes, he worries Maximus will be affected by constant changes.
“Even before we separated, she was a workaholic, Max had daycare and nannies. She never actually spent time with him,” he said. “She provides for him, but I don’t think she’s a good parent.”
Morness said he’s done a lot of research on the Japanese legal system but doesn’t have faith much will be done, although he has received some good tips on her whereabouts.
“The fear is I won’t see him until he’s grown up,” Morness said, adding he plans to build a website for his son that includes family photos and an explanation so that he can find answers when he’s older.
Morness has repeatedly tried to contact Kawabata without success.