Legal Services on Japanese Laws

How to get divorced

We provide general information about how to get divorced.

Issues on Divorce

Causes of divorce

Unless the parties are getting divorced by consent or through a successful conciliation procedure, it becomes a main issue in a divorce suit whether the parties can get divorced under Japanese family law. Paragraph 1 of Article 770 of Civil Code of Japan provides causes of divorce as follows: (1) if a spouse has committed an act of unchastity, (2) if abandoned by a spouse in bad faith, (3) if it is not clear whether a spouse is dead or alive for not less than three years, (4) if a spouse is suffering from severe mental illness and there is no prospect of recovery, or (5) if there is any other grave cause making it difficult to continue the marriage. Divorce cases involving disputes about either party's or both parties' adultery will fall under the cause of divorce (1) in the above; however, in most cases not involving such disputes, they are not necessarily clear whether or not the cases have causes of divorce. Especially, since Japanese family law has no idea of legal separation, the parties' separation for a certain period of time does not automatically consist of a cause of divorce. In addition, Japanese court's judicial precedents have ruled right of claim for divorce by a party who committed adultery in negative unless exceptional circumstances exist.

Distribution of properties

Another issue on divorce is distribution of properties that the married couple obtained and earned during the marriage life living together. Although it is possible for a party to claim for distribution of properties even after getting divorced up to two years, divorcing couples usually discuss distribution of properties upon divorce.

Sharing living expenses

Besides the distribution of properties, either of the married but separated couple, usually the wife with no income or less income than the husband, can claim for payment of money to share the living expenses as duty to support his/her spouse before getting divorced. This claim is necessary to be made by filing a petition for a conciliation procedure with a family court and if filed during a divorce conciliation procedure in a court, usually both conciliation procedures are merged. If the party being claimed to share the living expenses does not agree to pay, a judge for the case on the sharing the living expenses decides the case separately from the merged divorce case by a Shimpan adjudication that has the same legal effect as a judgment and enforceable when becomes final and conclusive.

Parental authority

Finally, when the divorcing couple has child(ren), determination of the person with parental authority ("Shinkensha"; who has the right of physical custody and managing child(ren)'s property) after divorce is another issue. Since Japanese family law does not approve joint custody of child(ren) after divorce and requires either parent to be determined as such person with parental authority, dispute on which parent should be determined as the person with parental authority sometimes prolongs the resolution of disputes on terms of divorce.

Types of Divorce, Divorce in Court

Sakuma Law Office
Kudan Southern Bldg. 2nd Floor, 9-1 Kudan-Minami 3-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0074 JAPAN   Tel: +81-3-6272-6916   Fax: +81-3-6272-6917