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Family law : divorce and division of property.

I’ve been living in Japan for a long time with my Japanese spouse but I’m contemplating divorce now. I’d like to get general guidance on divorce procedures inside Japan.


The governing law of divorce will be ①the law of the country of the husband and wife when they have the same nationality, ②the law of domicile when they don’t have the common nationality or ③in the absence of such laws the law of the place on which they have the most material bearing, according to Article 27 of the “Act on General Rules for Application of Law.” You can seek divorce in accordance with the Japanese Civil Code if you and your Japanese spouse are regarded as having domicile in Japan. Under the Japanese law, marriage can be dissolved by “kyogirikon” or divorce by mutual consent, “choutei rikon” divorce by family court-instituted arbitration, and “saiban rikon” divorce by court ruling. The causes for which the court grants divorce will be those provided in the Japanese law.

It is up to your country to decide whether divorce itself is legal or whether the divorce granted in Japan should be recognized in your country, so it is advisable you consult with your embassy or consulate general.

Divorce by mutual consent can be reached when both husband and wife agree to get divorced and other divorce-related issues. All you need to do is fill out a divorce paper after affixing your seal or signature and submit it with your city office. You have to decide who gets the custody of your underage children before submitting the divorce paper. You need two witnesses who sign your divorce paper.

Divorce by arbitration is a process for resolving disputes over various legal issues, including division of property, compensation, child support allowance, child custody and visitation rights as well as divorce itself. Unlike typical court cases, a judge does not issue a ruling in arbitration procedure. Parties who do not reach an agreement through arbitration can either drop the case or proceed with the court trials. If they can resolve all of their pending issues of their divorce through arbitration, however, an arbitration statement is written up, which is enforceable just like those issued by a judge. A plaintiff usually has to file an arbitration settlement with the family court which has a jurisdiction over the place a defendant lives or the one which both a plaintiff and a defendant agree upon. If there is any specific reason you have to choose a certain family court, you should consult with clerks of the court you wish to file divorce arbitration with.

Divorce by court ruling follows only when family court-assisted divorce arbitration fails. The court grants divorce if the grounds for divorce are in line with the provisions in the Civil Code. Attorneys are usually retained if you have to go though divorce by court ruling.

Articles and consultations authored by attorney reflect the state of law as of the date of their writing. The laws change daily. Users of this site are advised to consult attorney regarding their situation.
Karina Duvall
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