Getting Divorced in Japan 離婚
Types of Divorce in Japan
As international marriage has increased in Japan, so have the number of divorces. It is estimated that there are 20,000 divorces among international couples each year in Japan out of an annual total of around 231,000 divorces annually (*2013 figure) down from a peak of 290,000 divorces in Japan in 2002.
There are 4 types of divorce in Japan:
1) Divorce by mutual consent (kyogi rikon 協議離婚)
The vast majority (around 90%) of divorces in Japan are when both parties mutually agree to the separation. Usually this type of divorce happens after a short period of marriage when there are no children or financial disagreements. Both parties are required to stamp a rikon todoke (離婚届) from the ward office 区役所, kuyakusho) with their personal seals (inkan) and that is basically that.
2) Divorce by mediation in a family court (chotei rikon 調停離婚)
When the couple cannot mutually agree on divorce they can choose to go through mediation in a family court (katei saibansho 家庭裁判所). This can be a long, drawn-out process. The couple attend a family court session alone or with a lawyer and separately make a case for divorce or reconciliation to a representative of the court and two volunteers (yuushiki sha).
3) Divorce by decision in a family court (shimpan rikon 審判離婚)
Divorce is decided by family court decision when mediation fails.
4) Divorce by decision in a district court (saiban rikon 裁判離婚)
Divorce is decided by district court decision when a family court is not able to make a decision.
Grounds for Divorce
Japan does not recognize divorce due to "irreconcilable differences" as in the west.
According to Civil Code (minpou) Article 770, Clause 1, there are currently five grounds for divorce in Japan:
1) infidelity (futei na koui)
2) malicious desertion (akui na iki)
3) uncertainty whether or not the spouse is dead or alive (shoushi) for three years or more,
4) serious mental disease (seishinbyou) without hope of recovery, or
5) a "grave reason" (juudai na jiyu) which makes continuing the marriage impossible.
Number 5, juudai na jiyu is at the discretion of the judge and may be the withholding of sexual relations by the wife towards the husband (a claim reserved for men only) or the withholding of financial support by the husband (a claim reserved for women only).
Facts About Divorce
Japan signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 2014. The Hague Convention governs international child custody disputes resulting from divorce, broken marriages and separation, where one parent takes the children of a marriage to their home country without the consent of the other spouse.
Division of Finance & Marital Assets
There is no concept of alimony in Japan but a division of "marital assets" usually takes places upon divorce in Japan. "Marital assets existing at the time of separation are subject to division upon divorce. The Japanese court usually allocates one half of the marital assets to each party. However, if the earning of one of the couple is considerably higher than the other during marriage, the court may allocate more assets to the high earner." (Shiki-no-Kaze Law Group)
From April 1, 2007 Japanese women are entitled to 50% of the husband's employment pension contributed during the period of marriage under the Split Pension Payment Law (厚生年金の分割制度; kosei nenkin no bunkatsu seido). Kyosai nenkin (mutual aid pension) is also subject to division upon divorce.
Useful Links for Getting Divorced in Japan
Nagoya International Center - Divorce Information www.nic-nagoya.or.jp
Dibito.org - Personal Experience of Divorce in Japan www.debito.org
Child Custody Rights in Japan - crnjapan.com
Japan Signs Hague Convention - Asahi News ajw.asahi.com
US Embassy in Japan - Divorce in Japan japan.usembassy.gov
Facts & Details - Divorce in Japan factsanddetails.com
Shikinokase - the webpage of the Shiki-no-Kase Law Group