Divorce in Japan


1.Types of divorce

There are four types of divorce in Japan:

1.Divorce by agreement (so-called kyogi rikon), based on mutual agreement.

2.Divorce by mediation in a family court (so-called chotei rikon), completed by applying for mediation by the family court (for cases in which divorce by mutual agreement cannot be reached).

3.Divorce by decision of the family court (so-called shinpan rikon), which is divorce completed by family court decision when divorce cannot be established by mediation.

4.Divorce by judgment of a district court (so-called saiban rikon). If divorce cannot be established by the family court, then application is made to the district court for a decision (application for arbitration is a prerequisite). Once the case is decided, the court will issue a certified copy and certificate of settlement, to be attached to the Divorce Registration.

 2.Documents to submit for diorce

1. Notification of Divorce  (in the case of divorce by agreement; paperwork available at and to be turned into the parties local municipal office) bearing the signatures and personal seals (so-called inkan) of two adult witnesses.
2. Personal seal of the reporting person(s) – foreign spouses are exempted if they do not have one, the foreign spouse’s signature will serve).
3. If the reporting office is not the office of the permanent address of the Japanese partner, a copy or an extract of his or her family register (koseki tohon).
4. Passport
5.Certificate of current address (juminhyo or Alien Registration Card)
6. Copy of marriage certificate if both parties are foreign nationals.
7. A registered copy of the birth certificate of any minor child the couple has if both parties are foreign nationals.

If both parties are not in agreement to the divorce, it is necessary to receive mediation and judgment by the Family Court in Japan. If the court rules in favor for the divorce you should then submit a copy of the court ruling and the “Notification of Divorce” to your municipal office.

3.Grounds for Divorce

The Japan Civil Code Article 770, provides five grounds for unilateral divorce if divorce cannot be reached by mutual agreement:

1) infidelity
2) malicious desertion
3) uncertainty whether or not the spouse is dead or alive for three years or more.
4) serious mental disease without hope of recovery.
5) a “grave reason” which makes continuing the marriage impossible.

Under Japan Civil Code Article 710, the plaintiff can demand the payment of consolation money and the distribution of property . However in most cases the amounts of consolation money tends to be rather small, usually only a few million yen. If the defendant lacks financial means, the amount can be much lower.

4.Custody of the  childlen after divorce

 Under the Civil Code in Japan, parental rights are given to one member of a divorced couple, whereas it is common in Western countries for former couples to bring up their children jointly. Unlike many Asian countries, where the husband and his family get custody of the children after a divorce, in Japan the ex-wife gets the children 80 to 90 percent of the time.

  In the old days, after a divorce the ex husband’s family was given custody of the children. This was done for reasons related to the male heir carrying on the family name. These days, mothers get custody of the children because many women work and can support their children and the old family name system is not as important as it once was. Prior to World War II fathers were granted sole custody of their children, After the war Gen. Douglas MacArthur reversed the law, giving the rights to mothers in divorce cases.

Japanese law usually custody to either the mother of the father — not both. Joint custody is illegal. On the divorce form there is one line for children who stay with their father and one line for those who stay with their mother. Visitation is arranged informally. In about 40 percent of cases, according to a 1997 survey, the ex-wife or ex-husband who doesn’t receive custody never sees the children again. In 18 percent of cases the noncustodial parent has hardy any contact with his or her children.

The parent who does not get custody has almost no rights concerning their children and often times is able to see their kids. There are no provisions in the Civil Code referring to the visitation rights of parents who does not live with the children. When visitation is allowed it is often limited to once a month.

Mothers win 90 percent of court decision concerning custody. Some ex-wives are insistent that their ex-husbands never see their children again. Even when a court decides that husband can see the children once a month the ex-wife can refuse to comply and not suffer consequences for it.

There are cases of ex-husbands being given the right by a court of law to see their children but being denied that right by their ex-wives—and there was little the husbands could do about it.

If you are interested in divorce infomation in Japan, please contact us for further information.