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4 Divorce Methods in Japan

Sep 27, 2017

 

Divorce statistics are on the rise in Japan similar to other developed countries and it is a common inquiry we receive. This article aims to address some of the basics and commonly asked questions.

Divorce Paper

The divorce paper in Japan is called 離婚届 Rikon todoke which can be obtained free of charge from your local ward office or similar governmental departments that handle family register. The document is the same nation-wide and can also be downloaded online from ward office websites that provide it.

Types of Divorce

There are four types of divorce in Japan:

  1. Divorce by Agreement協議離婚
  2. Divorce by Mediation調停離婚
  3. Divorce by Decision of the family court審判離婚
  4. Divorce by Litigation裁判離婚

Divorce by Agreement

When a married couple wish to end their marriage, it is possible to carry out the entire process without a lawyer or involvement of the family court if they can come to an agreement on important matters. For the sake of record and future enforcements, agreements should be documented in a Settlement Agreement. For a Settlement Agreement to be valid the agreement should be in writing and signatures/or stamp be witnessed by two independent adults. Settlement Agreement which is not notarized lacks power in enforcement. In the event of a dispute, the validity of the Agreement will be scrutinized and conciliation or trial might be necessary.

Important Things to Agree on Prior to Filing for Divorce  

  • ・What to do with the family register (戸籍 koseki) of each person
  • ・Compensation in the case of infidelity and/or domestic violence
  • ・Division of financial properties
  • ・Parental authority and contact regarding any children of the marriage
  • ・Determining amount of child support
  • ・Division of superannuation

While the couples may agree among themselves, it is recommended that professional advice be sought prior to entering into a Settlement Agreement. When filing the Divorce Paper, the Settlement Agreement does not need to accompany it.

Divorce by Mediation  

Quite often the parties cannot reach an agreement on certain issues or there is a breakdown in communication in general. Family Courts around the country provide mediation services where a judge or professional mediator assists the parties in reaching an agreement. Such service is also available for couples who want to sort out their issues and avoid divorce. Agreements are documented in a Record of Mediation

(調停調書) which has the same enforceability as a court judgement. The Divorce Paper has to be filed with the Record of Mediation within 10 days from the date of settlement.

Divorce by Decision of the family court

Even when mediation does not reach a resolution, the family court may reach a decision that divorce is appropriate. Usually, this method is used when the parties agree on becoming divorced but the conditions are not agreed upon. The divorce decision becomes ineffective if within two weeks of the decision, one parties files an objection to the decision. Due to these limitations, this method is not commonly used.

Divorce by Litigation

When conciliation fails to achieve settlement, one side might pursue the Divorce by Litigation option. Unlike the above options, the two parties are referred to as plaintiff (the one initiating the trial) and defendant (the one on the receiving side). Also, unlike the other options, a legal cause of divorce must be present.

Under Article 770(1) of the Civil Code, the grounds for divorce by court judgment are as follows:

(1) Infidelity of a spouse;

(2) Malicious abandonment by a spouse;

(3) Uncertainty as to whether the spouse is alive or not for more than three years;

(4) Serious mental illness of a spouse with no possibility of recovery;

(5) Grave grounds which make a marriage unable to continue.

 

The fifth ground is more difficult to determine although a typical example is family violence.

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