What’s right and wrong with divorce in Japan

Note: I started drafting this post about a week ago. Many of these points have since been raised in our educated readers’ comments to Curzon’s earlier post on the Savoie case. I’m going to re-raise them anyway, since I believe the broader discussion of international divorce should continue.

My first trip to court was as a student in an undergraduate law class. I was assigned to sit in a session of the local courthouse and take notes on what happened. This was also where I saw a divorce for the first time. A middle-aged, heavyset black couple with soft Southern drawls came in. The entirety of the divorce went like this:

JUDGE: I understand you two want to get divorced.
WIFE: That’s right, Your Honor.
JUDGE: What is the reason for this?
WIFE: He cheated on me, and lied to me. And we don’t wanna be married no more.
JUDGE: Is this true, sir?
HUSBAND: Yes, it is.
JUDGE: Do you have any children?
WIFE: No, sir.
JUDGE: Property?
HUSBAND: It’s taken care of.
JUDGE: Fine. I declare you lawfully divorced. Take this form to the clerk.
WIFE: Thank you.

I left the courthouse shortly after that, and saw them getting into the same car together to drive home. It was a surprisingly cute divorce.

Since becoming a lawyer and moving to Tokyo, I have gotten an inside seat in some much nastier divorces. Although the law firm I used to work at was primarily dealing with corporate clients, we would regularly get a personal inquiry from, say, a client’s secretary, telling us her brother’s children were stolen by his crazy Japanese wife, and we would invariably try to respond with something productive even though there was nothing particularly productive to do at that point. The problems in resolving cross-border family disputes involving Japan are legion, and have inspired a voluminous website written by an anonymous estranged gaijin dad.

First, some facts

The statistics in this section all come from the Japanese government. You can see the original stats (in Japanese CSV format) here.

One important but rarely-cited fact about Japanese divorce law is that most divorces are consensual and involve little legal process at all. These so-called “kyogi rikon” have consistently accounted for 90 to 95 percent of all divorces during the postwar era.

A lot of this has to do with the ease of the consensual divorce. The two parties simply sign and seal a one-page form (here’s a sample in Japanese) and file it with city hall. It’s possible to get a consensual divorce without ever setting foot in court. But there has to be consensus on what to do with property and children. In this respect, the system makes it comparatively very easy to end a marriage so long as there are no particular disputes to resolve.

If the parties can’t agree to the terms of their divorce, they must go to family court. The first phase is “chotei rikon,” essentially a mediated divorce under the auspices of the family court system. It is supervised by a judge but the mediation is conducted by laypeople. If mediation fails, the family court judge can step in with a “shimpan rikon,” a sort of preliminary judgment, but this can be defeated by either party’s objection within two weeks, and so it does not form a statistically significant number of divorces. The last resort is a “hanketsu rikon,” which is also finalized by the family court judge, but can only be concluded upon a showing of particular legal facts such as infidelity, cruelty or unwarranted denial of sexual intercourse. The parties can reach a settlement during the final court process, in which case their agreement is called a “wakai rikon”; this system was introduced in the past decade and has become a not-uncommon way to resolve marital disputes.

It’s a common misconception that mothers always get custody after a Japanese divorce. In reality, fathers end up with custody in a significant percentage of cases. In fact, until the 60’s, they were more likely to get custody than mothers. Check out this graph.

The thing is that (as stated above) most divorces are reached by voluntary agreement of some kind. Once the case gets into family court, the more-or-less official presumption is that the mother is a more suitable custodian unless the father can prove otherwise. The pre-eminent English academic commentator on Japanese child abduction, Doshisha law professor and periodic Japan Times contributor Colin P.A. Jones (who incidentally lost his own kid in a Japanese divorce proceeding) translated the family court’s mediation manual as follows:

When a child is small, it is thought that the mother should generally be designated custodian. For a young child, the mother’s existence is irreplaceable, and in mediation, custody designations should usually proceed from this basis. [. . .]

When a father is demanding to be designated custodian, it is not uncommon for him to base his arguments on the fact that because he has to work outside the home, his own parents can look after the child. However, it can be said that it is better for the child to live with his mother than with his grandparents. Unless the conditions in which a mother lives are judged unsuitable for the child, as a general rule I cannot approve of awarding sole custody to fathers. Even if grandparents do look after the child, it is likely that matters will arise daily in which they will not pay the same level of attention as a parent.

This manual does not have the force of law; it is merely an official reference for the judges. The practical effect of it is that fathers can only win custody by an overwhelming display of evidence that the mother is unfit to be a parent.

(Aside: Our favorite Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, kept his first two children in a consensual divorce in 1982. His wife was six months pregnant at the time the papers were finalized and gave birth after the divorce. Koizumi tried to claim this third child as well, but the matter ended up in family court mediation and Koizumi’s ex-wife retained custody. Japanese Wikipedia interestingly doesn’t even name the third child of Koizumi, apparently because he is no longer legally Koizumi’s.)

What about joint custody? There is generally no such thing as joint custody among Japanese nationals. Visitation rights (面接交渉権 mensetsu kosho ken) may be granted by the court, but are often very limited (sometimes to a few hours once per year), are very difficult to legally enforce, and one parent must still be designated as the custodian whether or not the divorce is consensual. The only way a Japanese child can be registered as being in joint custody is if the child has another citizenship and their parents’ divorce was finalized in another country which allows joint custody. (This is not a “legal” provision per se; it was allowed by a Ministry of Justice circular and could theoretically be changed overnight if the Justice Minister changed their mind about the issue.)

Even outside Japan, joint custody is a sticky subject among parents, academics and jurists. Terrie Lloyd made the following statement in his email newsletter earlier this week:

The view of most [Japanese] judges (based on interviews with judges that we have done in the past) is that kids need to be insulated from the hurt between divorcing parents by giving them just one care-giver. But this is a traditional view and has no basis in fact. Child psychologists outside Japan generally agree that kids need the love and attention of both parents, even if they are divorced. Splitting the kids from one parent naturally causes them to side with the other (Parental Alienation Syndrome: PAS), which causes them to have complexes about the missing parent later in life.

Actually, as a glance at Wikipedia would show (and as Professor Jones acknowledges in the article linked above), PAS has not nearly reached general acceptance in the psychological community or the legal community, even in the supposedly more liberal United States.

(Another aside, at the risk of pissing off all the divorced men in the room: I find the use of PAS theory in custody disputes difficult to swallow. Sure, in theory it’s better for kids to have contact with both parents and view both parents as respectable people. In practice, if the parents can’t hold their marriage together, they probably can’t refrain from filling their kids’ heads with crazy talk about each other. So how is bouncing the kids back and forth between homes, and introducing two conflicting stories between the parents in the process, less traumatic for the kids than having one consistent story?

That said, there is a risk of conflating issues here. It’s one thing to park the children in one parent’s household when there is abuse or domestic violence going on. It may also be a good idea when the two parents absolutely can’t get along and their own discord is harming their children. But there are also many cases where children have no idea what is going on between their parents—only that one parent is going away forever—and this boggles my mind. In those sorts of cases, it makes sense to allow ongoing shared custody as an option, so long as the parents can work out logistics between them and agree to keep their disputes between themselves.)

This brings us to the international aspect of Japanese divorce law. International divorces are common in Japan, but not exactly in the form familiar to readers of Debito.org or crnjapan.com. 7.1% of divorces in Japan in 2007 involved a non-Japanese party. The most common combinations were:

  • Japanese husband, Chinese wife (1.97%)
  • Japanese husband, Filipina wife (1.82%)
  • Japanese husband, Korean wife (1.11%)
  • Japanese wife, Korean husband (0.35%)
  • Japanese husband, Thai wife (0.33%)
  • Japanese wife, Chinese husband (0.22%)
  • Japanese wife, American husband (0.14%)

Chinese and Korean family law bear a striking resemblance to Japanese family law. The Chinese and Korean systems emerged from the civil law tradition, and like Japan’s, revolve around the concept of a central family registration system where every citizen is tracked. So that means only 2.74% of Japanese divorces involve a country with a “truly foreign” family law apparatus, and it’s probably safe to say that of the total number of divorces in Japan, much less than one percent involve a non-Asian party. These facts are understandable given that Japanese-Asian marriages form the vast majority of international marriages in Japan.

Let’s ask the question on everyone’s mind, though:

Is the system biased against foreigners?

Yes, it is.

But to some extent, the bias is unavoidable.

Unfortunately, there are no statistics to show how foreign parents generally fare in court-administered divorces here. My conclusion, based on many stories floating around the internet and by word of mouth, is that foreign parents are highly unlikely to win custody of Japanese kids from a Japanese court, whether or not the foreign parent is male or female. And given the fact that moms are more likely than dads to keep the kids, foreign dads should not expect much if their marriage falls apart.

A lot of this boils down to cultural differences. A Japanese judge likely has no idea of how a non-Japanese family operates, and is going to have suspicion regarding what might happen in a non-Japanese household. Suspicions aside, a not-so-worldly Japanese person would probably be unpleasantly surprised by many family quirks that are taken for granted outside Japan.

The same is true for courts in other countries. Chris Savoie, for instance, attacked Noriko Savoie in Tennessee divorce court because she had their 6- and 8-year-old kids sleep with her in her bed. This practice is uncommon in the US and would probably seem strange to an American lawyer or judge, but wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Japan, where it’s often used simply to save space.

Cultural issues aside, there are also some procedural stumbling blocks for non-Japanese in the Japanese divorce system. These are issues which warrant legal revision, both from an international human rights perspective and from a perspective of citizens’ best interests.

Problem 1: There is no contempt of court

This is really an endemic problem throughout the Japanese legal system, not just in the sphere of family court. Even if you can get a judge to order some action or inaction (like “stay away from X’s kids” or “let X see the kids on these days”), they have no way to enforce that order if the counterparty says “no.” All they can do is levy fines, but even if they do that, the counterparty can simply refuse to pay.

Then your only option is “self-enforcement”—withholding payments and finding ways to exert social pressure. Self-enforcement might work to some extent if the enforcing party is savvy about the local system, but it puts outsiders, particularly outsiders in different countries, at a great disadvantage. Courts need teeth if they are to effectively administer any sort of custody-related arrangements.

Problem 2: The arbitrariness of Japanese nationality and conflict-of-law rules

The biggest legal problem in the Savoie case is that Dr. Savoie is a Japanese citizen and apparently hasn’t taken that fact into account in his legal strategy. The following statutory passages explain what I mean:

法の適用に関する通則法
General Act Regarding the Application of Laws

(本国法)
第三十八条  当事者が二以上の国籍を有する場合には、その国籍を有する国のうちに当事者が常居所を有する国があるときはその国の法を、その国籍を有する国のうちに当事者が常居所を有する国がないときは当事者に最も密接な関係がある国の法を当事者の本国法とする。ただし、その国籍のうちのいずれかが日本の国籍であるときは、日本法を当事者の本国法とする。

(Home Country Law)
Article 38. If a party has two or more nationalities, then the home country of the party shall be the law of the country in which such party has a habitual residence if such a country exists, and should no such country exist, the law of the country having the closest relationship to that party. However, if any such nationality is the nationality of Japan, the home country law of the party shall be the law of Japan.

According to the International Wedding Association, a Japanese NPO, a citizen would have “habitual residence” by virtue of being recorded in the resident registration (juminhyo) system, unless they have actually lived overseas for five continuous years prior to the date of determination.

(婚姻の効力)
第二十五条  婚姻の効力は、夫婦の本国法が同一であるときはその法により、その法がない場合において夫婦の常居所地法が同一であるときはその法により、そのいずれの法もないときは夫婦に最も密接な関係がある地の法による。

(Validity of Marriage)
Article 25. The validity of a marriage shall be determined by the home country law of the husband and wife if such law is the same; or if such law does not exist, by the law of the habitual residence of the husband and wife if such law is the same; or if such law does not exist, by the law of the place having the closest relationship to the husband and wife.

(離婚)
第二十七条  第二十五条の規定は、離婚について準用する。ただし、夫婦の一方が日本に常居所を有する日本人であるときは、離婚は、日本法による。

(Divorce)
Article 27. The provisions of Article 25 shall apply to divorces. However, if either husband or wife is a Japanese person with a habitual residence in Japan, [their] divorce shall be based on Japanese law.

So let’s run down the facts.

  • First, Christopher and Noriko were married in Japan.
  • Then Christopher became a Japanese citizen. So far, so good.
  • Then Christopher took his wife to the US and divorced her there. But their mutual home country law was Japanese law, so their divorce would have been invalid under Japanese law.
  • Having been improperly divorced for Japanese purposes, Christopher then married Amy.

Whether or not we agree with the propriety of a U.S. divorce for the Savoies, turning Chris into a bigamist is a pretty illogical outcome. I think he could get around prosecution given that he had no apparent intent to be legally married to two people at the same time.

That said, I think Christopher may intend to rescind, or deny the validity of, his own naturalization. The US Consulate says they want to help him out, which should not be the case if he really is Japanese (you can’t get consular protection in a country where you are a citizen). It’s a bizarre argument, and I believe it would fall flat on its face in court as an “abuse of rights” or something similar.

The solution to this problem, inasmuch as there is one, is to revise these conflict-of-law provisions so that Japanese citizens have the clear ability to divorce in a foreign forum under foreign law if they have some requisite connections to that forum. (Formally allowing dual citizenship, and getting rid of the odd ability to rescind one’s own citizenship following naturalization, wouldn’t hurt, either.) But both of these ideas are in conflict with another feature of the Japanese family law system.

Problem 3: The koseki is a moronic concept

If you don’t know what the “koseki” is, read this. The entire family law system in Japan is based on the premise of a giant hierarchical registry limited to citizens.

The koseki-worship in the civil law system here is responsible for a lot of the family law rules. Children legally exist as an entry in their parents’ koseki page. Parents have a koseki page by virtue of being married. When they divorce, they revert to separate koseki pages, and their children must go one way or the other. Thus, in a sense, they legally lose title to their children. And, as many of our readers undoubtedly know, foreigners do not appear on the koseki at all, except as “notes” on their spouse’s page.

Why is this entire system necessary? Familial relations are a personal matter, and are often quite abstract in nature. Is a parent less of a parent because they remarried or because they don’t have a Japanese passport?

The notion of organizing society around households is unnecessarily feudalistic for the modern age, and something more flexible would be better for citizens and non-citizens alike—particularly those for whom familial roots have historically been a source of discrimination (the burakumin, naturalized Koreans and others).

Personal footnote

I don’t have a wife or kids yet. Debito, who has written extensively about his own divorce and loss of children (a dreadfully sad story, but an excellent overview of how the system works here), chided me in a Facebook comment thread for daring to state my opinions while I lack skin in the game. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I respect Debito, who gave me, Roy and Curzon the privilege of hearing his story in person a good year before he made it public. But where I come from, having no skin in the game is called “objectivity,” and does not by any means disqualify an opinion.

For what it’s worth, I do have some skin in the game, as I am engaged to get married early next year. While I have given up on my farcical plans to transfer my kids to an offshore investment vehicle, I am still very cognizant that the law (even as I think its mechanics should work) may bite me in the rear someday if my marriage ever breaks down.

Sadly, a lot of the discussion surrounding these issues, whether regarding particular cases or the system in general, devolves into parental narcissism, envy and finger-pointing. The whole framework of marriage, divorce and custody is ultimately not about what Mom or Dad wants: it’s about protecting children and giving them a chance to inherit the world as capable individuals. So, as I see it, we have to approach it from that perspective regardless of which side we occupy on the wedding cake.

81 thoughts on “What’s right and wrong with divorce in Japan

  1. “Sadly, a lot of the discussion surrounding these issues, whether regarding particular cases or the system in general, devolves into parental narcissism, envy and finger-pointing. The whole framework of marriage, divorce and custody is ultimately not about what Mom or Dad wants: it’s about protecting children and giving them a chance to inherit the world as capable individuals. So, as I see it, we have to approach it from that perspective regardless of which side we occupy on the wedding cake.”

    This is excellently written. I think good writing is a fine substitute for skin in the game.

  2. Wataru: he does… but I know what you mean—this material is far too good to be on a blog.

    Amazing write-up Joe!

  3. Joe, you have reminded me once more why I read this blog.

    There is no provision dealing with child custody on the divorce form in the link you supplied. Has anyone heard of private joint custody arrangements after a “consensual” divorce?

    “this material is far too good to be on a blog.”

    I agree. But don’t listen to them Joe. I want to be able to find this stuff.

  4. “private joint custody arrangements”

    Or rather, visitation agreements. “Custody” of course is a different matter.

  5. Outstanding review of both the Japanese family law system and divorce, placed over the context of Savoie case.
    Well written and very accessable for legal illiterates -like me.

  6. Wow. I have been busy for the past few days and have just noticed the billion or so comments attached to Curzon’s post about the Savoie case. Visitation is discussed there.

  7. Great summary of the case.
    Japanese people admit themselves that the Koseki Tohon is
    limited, as when someone dies there is so much to clear up
    that a lawyer often needs to be hired to get through the mire.
    I have heard Japanese relatives (in law) complain about the bind
    that is the Koseki. It is like many things in Japan a remnant of a previous
    age that is seemingly impossible to change until eternity.

    It is, therefore, not only foreigners who despise the Koseki system.

    Regarding Debito’s story, while one must feel sympathy for him, no-one knows
    what his marriage was like or how he treated his wife and how she treated him,
    and we have only his (prejudiced) word from his blog to go on. I imagine his wife’s
    version of the divorce would be rather different.

    “Why is this entire system necessary? ”

    Because this is a cramped overpopulated archipelago with a ruling class that
    likes to micro-manage the minutiae of the minions. The people of Japan exist
    as benefactors of the state, and their feelings and personal lives are of no concern to
    the oligarchy. It has always been this way.

    Speaking as someone married to a Japanese citizen and with two children,
    I do feel that I have to be extra diligent in maintaining my marriage, as I know
    that if we ever end up negotiating a divorce settlement I will get the thin end of the wedge. My feeling on this issue is that the lawmakers and rulers of Japan do not feel accountable to or care about the sentiments of the international community, and will behave as they like. Certainly “they” would not sign something like the Hague Treaty that would actually bind them to standards agreed on by other signatories.

    It smacks of a kind of arrogance and superiority, that somehow Japanese Citizens are above the reach of international law. Hopefully this case will generate some new momentum for a better paradigm.

  8. Excellent reporting here.

    Kyung Lah should be reading this and interviewing Joe before spouting off inaccurate information on CNN re: Savoie.

  9. Thank you Joe for this excellent review. I’m still wondering about the property aspects, because of the claim being made that Noriko Savoie bargained for this – she put herself under Tennessee law to get a better financial result, and in return accepted the parenting order requiring her to live in Tennessee.

    I’m wondering if it is possible in Japan to create a legally enforceable kyougi-rikon contract, with a property settlement and child support dependent on continuing visitation.

    Your offshore child trust is funny, but it reminds of what I had been thinking might have been possible in this case – for example, making part of the settlement a Tennessee trust to own a house for the mother and children to live, which is somehow made dependent on continuing residence in Tennessee and visitation.

    I’m not convinced that the mother did not genuinely intend for the father to see the kids and for the kids to live in the U.S. If this had been handled fairly, fully negotiated under Japanese law, without force, I think it could have worked.

    In general, would a Japanese court enforce a financial settlement conditioned on continued visitation?

    Leaving visitation aside, do well-drafted kyougi-rikon property agreements, done with lawyers and notaries, work in Japan? I’ve heard of agreements done without lawyers that lead to disaster, but it seems that Japanese lawyers must be able to create good enforceable agreements.

  10. “My feeling on this issue is that the lawmakers and rulers of Japan do not feel accountable to or care about the sentiments of the international community, and will behave as they like. Certainly “they” would not sign something like the Hague Treaty that would actually bind them to standards agreed on by other signatories.”

    Your “feeling” sounds more like prejudice.That sounds more like American lawmaker than Japanese ones.And to fill some gap in your knowledge,there is ongoing debate and Ministry of Foreign Affiars is “seriously thinking” about signing by 2010.Ofcourse you only believe that when you see that happening.

    “It smacks of a kind of arrogance and superiority, that somehow Japanese Citizens are above the reach of international law. Hopefully this case will generate some new momentum for a better paradigm.”

    Not particulary defending Koseki,but this archaic system is being kept since the vast population rejects the ID system for it could allow the state to control the individual information even more systematically.So the lawmakers and rulers of Japan feel accountable to or care about the sentiments of people by sustaining the introduction of more “modern” system.That probably won’t happen if people of Japan marely exist as benefactors of the state, and their feelings and personal lives are of no concern to the oligarchy.

    It smacks of a kind of arrogance and superiority,that some how foreign citizens(and CNN) are acting above the reach of Japanese law and criticizing it without knowing the whole picture of debate and demanding us from high horse to change our way to their way.

    But then,this is a opinion from a guy born and raised in a cramped overpopulated archipelago with a ruling class that likes to micro-manage the minutiae of the minions.Still bugs the hell out of me,though.

  11. “demanding us from high horse”

    Where is this high horse town ?

  12. Aceface, the koseki system could be sufficiently modernized by just abandoning the whole family concept and letting everyone have their own koseki that states all the information but on an individual basis. That’s what I’d like to see.

  13. Hi Joe,

    Thank you so much for putting this together. It was extremely well balanced—and very helpful to get a grasp on the legal situation (only complaint was the end about koseki where I felt you never actually argued your opinion).

    And, most imprtantly congratulations on your engagement :)
    Cheers.

  14. Japan wants a seat on the UN Security Council,
    and wants to reform its constitution so it can
    manufacture weapons and presumably
    cash in. Yet it doesn’t want to be a party to
    other treaties like the Hague treay on abduction
    that other countries have signed.
    It’s all we’ve got. So perhaps if Japan were to be
    a little more interested in cooperating in other areas
    “She” / “it” might get that seat one day

  15. I don’t know who you are, but if you want to post inane trivia, go to fuckedgaijin or some other pleb site like that

  16. “Japan wants a seat on the UN Security Council,
    and wants to reform its constitution so it can
    manufacture weapons and presumably
    cash in. Yet it doesn’t want to be a party to
    other treaties like the Hague treay on abduction
    that other countries have signed.”

    I’m taking the bait.
    China and Russia aren’t party of Hague either.So is South Korea where secretary Ban Ki-moon came from.
    And the U.S of A,although signed but never ratified Kyoto Protocol,one of “other treaties that other countries not only signed” but ratified.
    That’s what I meant about high horse.Using international treaty as the cause when you feel apporopriate and not when your interest contradicts.With that kind of behavior,you just can’t bash other country for doing what you are doing.

    Besides the whole matter seems plain and simple.A Japanese citizen broke Japanese law on Japanese soil.He gets punished for what he did.End of story.
    But this immigrant try to manipulate the legal and authoritive judgement by mobilizing the former home government and opinion via international media like CNN?

    What would happen if we allow this nonsense as norm?Think we can manage a society with more immigrants coming over yet we can’t expect them to respect our law and authority,but insisting us the one they left behind?

    “Aceface, the koseki system could be sufficiently modernized by just abandoning the whole family concept and letting everyone have their own koseki that states all the information but on an individual basis. That’s what I’d like to see.”

    I’d rather have ID number on national level.My son isn’t biologically related with me.so I’d say dump the koseki.

  17. Wise words indeed. And none other than Ban Ki-Moon himself.
    CNN certainly has a lot to answer for this time round.

    I might encourage you to have your posts proofread before posting on these blogs Ace.

  18. “I might encourage you to have your posts proofread before posting on these blogs Ace.”

    I thought about following that advice long time ago.
    However,that will take away some of the Tatoowine Cantina-like atmosphere from this blog.One thing my posts can contribute on this blog.

  19. “Chris Savoie, for instance, attacked Noriko Savoie in Tennessee divorce court because she had their 6- and 8-year-old kids sleep with her in her bed.”

    I heard that dude could speak Japanese and had lived here for a while. Judging by that he should understand the cultural differences. He also would understand how an American judge wouldn’t. That’s a low blow, but this guy seems all about playing unfair.

  20. He hadn’t just lived in Japan for a while, he was a naturalized Japanese citizen. Don’t naturalized citizens have to swear an oath to obey the laws of the country or something? Could his naturalization be used to argue in an American court that the matter should be settled in Japan?

  21. Roy, I don’t think the naturalization would affect the outcome in US court. The situation might have been different if, say, Noriko and the kids were still in Japan. But once everyone was in the US, the US court probably had the ability to dispose of the divorce as far as US law was concerned. The real problem is that everyone ended up in Japan again, with a divorce that was legal in the US but sketchy for Japanese purposes.

  22. Joe, under Tennessee law (UCCEJA), Japan was the home state for determination of child custody issues, because the children had been living there for years with their mother until two days before the Tennessee divorce was filed. The divorce itself is fine, I think, because the father had been living in Tennessee for six months before the divorce was filed. It’s the child custody part that is at issue.

    This jurisdictional rule is for the benefit for the children and I don’t think it can be waived by consent of the divorcing spouses. The Tennessee court apparently relied on an exception in the UCCEJA allowing it to ignore Japan as the home state by determining that Japan’s child custody laws violate fundamental human rights.

    I’m not sure if Japan being the “home country” under Japan’s General Act Regarding the Application of Laws has any practical relevance to the real issues in this case.

    As it relates to the children, it only reinforces that Japan was the home state under Tennessee law and the children’s habitual residence under the Hague Convention.

    The “bigamy” question seems trivial, because Amy and Noriko know about each other and each thinks Chris is married to Amy and not Noriko. Do you think Chris will be better off in the criminal case if he is still considered married in Japan?

    About the Hague Convention, it already has a loophole big enough to drive a truck through:

    Article 20

    The return of the child under the provisions of Article 12 may be refused if this would not be permitted by the fundamental principles of the requested State relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    Seems to me that if the U.S. wants Japan to sign Hague, recognize U.S. child custody orders, and not abuse this loophole, then U.S. courts should be really careful about saying Japan’s child custody laws violate fundamental human rights as a reason to take jurisdiction over newly arrived Japanese children.

  23. Joe, I see now we agree on the bigamy question. Sorry, I’ve been seeing people make talk about “bigamy” using the General Act and was reacting to that.

  24. @Ningen: This jurisdictional rule is for the benefit for the children and I don’t think it can be waived by consent of the divorcing spouses.

    See, I think we are on different wavelengths here. I am thinking in the context of an adversarial system where Noriko would have to raise the issue before it even becomes an issue. Something like this:

    CHRIS’S LAWYER (“CL”): Hi, Judge. We decided to sue in Tennessee.
    NORIKO’S LAWYER (“NL”): That’s fine with us, Judge.
    JUDGE: OK, let’s proceed.

    (later on)

    JUDGE: OK, Chris wins.
    NL: We appeal, citing lack of jurisdiction in Tennessee.
    CL: You should have said that before.
    APPEAL COURT: Chris wins again. Go back to China or wherever you’re from.

    Re the Hague: I agree. One point to consider is that “fundamental human rights” is a well-defined constitutional term in Japanese parlance (where it refers generally to enumerated rights in the constitution), while in the US it has a murkier definition that often falls to judicial fiat.

  25. Joe, I was wrong in my analysis. Once she brought the kids to Tennessee, even two days later, Japan was no longer the “home state,” and the court could decide that the children and parents now had significant connections to Tennessee. So I think you’re right. The mother may have objected, and chosen not to appeal if she did.

    I think my broader concern about this case stands. The divorce was done there for the strategic benefit of the father, she was economically coerced, and if she only got a social worker’s like the father’s lawyer says, I doubt she knew what she was going to be subjected to in Tennessee. What she was subjected in Tennessee was an assumption that Japanese mothers won’t let their kids see the father after divorce, which basically meant that she was never not going to be allowed to relocate to Japan with the kids, even as primary parent, and was always going to be questioned when she wanted to take the kids back to Japan.

    All this is good reason for Japan to make reforms and sign Hague, as she is also a victim of the system, but she deserves a large measure of understanding. I don’t think a Tennessee divorce was fair to her or prudent. Hindsight twenty-twenty, but look what happened. A fairer divorce and a slower move to the U.S. might have worked. I still think she deserves being believed when she said she never intended to keep the children from their father.

    Sorry for the bad “home state” argument.

  26. Also, Joe, the judge still has to make a finding, whether about significant connections or about home state. It’s not up to the divorcing spouses to decide, because the rule is for the benefit of the children. You’re right that if neither spouse is objecting it’s more likely to go through, and it’s too late to appeal.

    Whether Tennessee was the best place in retrospect can still be questioned. A UCCJEA court can decline jurisdiction for a more appropriate forum at any time, on its own motion, and/or stay its orders. Maybe there could be some communication between the Tennessee court and Japanese court.

  27. First, I want to say – put this post in the hall of fame. While I share Aceface’s concerns on a discursive level to a certain extent (you’re not calling for extraterritoriality, but similar arguments are being used to support SOFA) , I still think that this one deserves to stand along with Roy’s Tamogami beat-down and Adamu’s pillow pumper pulverization. Keep raising your game guys. Second, congrats on the engagement.

    “I might encourage you to have your posts proofread before posting on these blogs Ace.”

    Aceface brings what is to my mind the highest level of knowledge about Japanese non-fiction, reportage, and the media environment of anyone commenting in English. Occasional grammatical errors take nothing away from that.

  28. Ace,

    Joe’s choice of words was too strong fo my taste but Japanese lawmakers have demonstrated a reluctance to subject Japanese citizens to the anything other than domestic law. Moreover, when Japan has signed international treaties which ought to impact domestic law, the country has sometimes been found wanting in living up to its obligations.

    You could argue one difficulty Japan has in international dealings is that the country focuses unduly on what it may have to give up, rather than what it stands to gain, from accords such as these. In most cases, Japan avoids signing extradition treaties (last time I looked, it had agreed only two) or something like the Hague convention. In other cases, the country adopts conventions without the willingness, or perhaps even intention, of enforcing them domestically.

    Take, for instance, the OECD Convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. Japan adopted the convention in 1999 which introduce new offences to the Japanese criminal code. In 2005, Japan was subject to a severe condemnation when an OECD group investigated what progress had been made in following its recommendations and found none. Takayuki Sumita, director of the intellectual property policy office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, was quoted saying: “It is not that Japan has been lax in enforcing our laws; it is that sometimes our definition of offences can be different, owing to cultural and other differences.”

    If you are a connoisseur of reports by international organizations on their dealings in Japan, I can recommend the following 60 page effort:

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/7/34554382.pdf

    The official language doesn’t mask the exasperation of the investigative team at the responses they received. Here’s a taste:

    “Leading up to the on-site visit the lead examiners and Secretariat followed the normal procedure of drafting an agenda for the visit, including topics for panel discussions and suggested participants. The Japanese authorities sought significant changes to the agenda at a very late date. It was the opinion of the lead examiners, the Secretariat and the Management Group of the Working Group that Japan was taking an unduly and unjustifiably narrow view of the scope of the examination and the topics relevant to the Phase 2 process. Although Japan eventually acceded in large part to the proposed agenda, the examination team notes that several officials failed to appear at some of the scheduled panels as well as media representatives. In addition, on several occasions, the Japanese authorities challenged the right of the lead examiners to inquire into certain areas, common to Phase 2 examinations, on the grounds of relevance and in certain circumstances pursuant to a secrecy obligation.”

    Perhaps Japan’s diplomats and political class have been out of step with the rest of the country in entering commitments which the average citizen opposes. Japan wouldn’t be the only country where that happens, as any opponent of the EU would likely testify. In the UK, there has been some disquiet about the lack of reciprocity in the country’s extradition treaty with America. Some of these international agreements creak and maybe even break under pressure. Nevertheless, there’s an underlying acceptance that there are benefits to compromise and a reduction in overall discord.

    Sometimes you see the apparent “loss” to Japan exaggerated. I worry when I see Hague being framed in Japan as a charter which would subject Japanese wives to abusive foreign husbands. While there may be incidence of abuse, I find it hard to believe that most of the cases of child abduction involve abuse. It is also odd that anyone would think that the only option available to an abused Japanese wife would be to flee to the protection of her home country, taking it for granted that she would be let down by the local law enforcement officials and courts in another country.

  29. ”You could argue one difficulty Japan has in international dealings is that the country focuses unduly on what it may have to give up, rather than what it stands to gain, from accords such as these. ”

    This may not be the right example,But I share the same concern over CITES,Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.when I was a volunteer for WWF/Traffic East Asia back in the early 90’s.Every time we had issues like ivory trade and whaling popped up,bureaucracy that represent the industry always sided the industry,while MoFA is only interested in keeping the negotiator position at the international conference,but not imposing CITES objective to J-society in forms of domestic laws.

    As you may know,diet members were not exactly “law makers” since making laws has been the task of bureaucrats,thus there were little motivation for the diet members to participate in the law making process,added to the fact that it may not give them any political credit to the voters.Ministers were selected based on fractional politics in LDP and the number of their electoral terms.So the actualy ability of policy making were not particulary required to make it Nagatacho.

    However,things can be changed after DPJ takes over and I was actually looking forward for many change including the diet becoming the real power center so that political class would be more sensitive to the needs of the society and putting priority.Something the bureaucrats were incapable of during the LDP years.

  30. Great post, Joe. I will quote from it when I give a speech at your wedding.

    BTW, I am way behind in reading the comments from this and Curzon’s post…

  31. This article distinguishes Article 819 “shinken” from Article 766 “kagoken”

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20091010f1.html

    “If a divorced couple cannot agree on either parental rights or custody, family courts decide for them. In most cases, the court grants both parental rights and custody to a single parent, normally the mother.”

    I don’t see why a joint custody agreement under Article 766 would not
    work in the sense of being recognized as legally valid. That leaves enforceability, obviously the big problem, but the claim that “joint custody” is not possible in Japan
    may not be accurate.

    .

  32. This was a really well written and insightful post. Congratulations on your engagement – I hope things all go well for you both :)

  33. I am Japanese citizen and divorced with Japanese man with 2 kids.(All four has only Japanese citizen) We divorced in US with joint custody so that my koseki says joint, not sole.

    All my Japanese friends who divorced in US has also joint custody in Japan too.(we need submit the divorce dicree to Japanese embassy in US)

  34. Misa – you mean that you went to the US for the purpose of getting divorced so that you and your partner would have joint custody? (A very clever idea!) Or were you living in the US and got divorced there?

    The only problem is that how would that joint custody be enforced in Japan if one side doesn’t want to continue it? If it is unenforceable in Japan and you are all living in Japan then I’m not sure I see the point of getting joint custody by divorcing in the US.

  35. Well, I do not know how Japan treat us. I am not a lawyer. We still live in US so it does not really matter. Sole or joint does not really have meaning in Japan, I think. Also, for us, it not big issue at all, sole or joint.

    But we are legaly join custody in Japan. This is how it says on koseki.

    The Japanese embassy explained to me that whoever divorced overseas, koseki will be what the foreign country’s court decide.

    If I want to have a sole custody, we have to divorce again in Japan. I and my ex do not have time to do it again in Japan. We simply submit the US divorce discree to Japanese embassy in US and then we are officially divorced in Japan too.

    My guess about Savoie’s case, because he has dual citizenship, he can not submit the US divorce discree to Japanese embassy. When you do that, you have to show the embassy what type of visa you have in US and you have to be legally live in US.

    Our case, we show US permanent residency when we submit. Savoie’s case, all 3 can show US peremanent residency except the father. Because he does not have student visa, or whatever visa or permanet residency. he does not want the Japanese embassy to know he is still american citizen, this is my guess.

  36. One quick non-sequitur:
    How is it possible that both individuals in the Savoie case were able to keep their dual citizenship status? The law clearly states this isn’t possible, but yet, here we are discussing it in an international (domestic?) divorce case. Does this mean anyone can get dual citizenship now? I understand you’re supposed to show you made an effort to get rid of one, but what gives?

    Now on back to the topic at hand, I thought I would post up a couple of quick follow-up articles. The first is from CNN - please notice the tone of the article – it’s decidedly more conservative than before, but it is still reporting Savoie as being mistreated in prison based on second hand reports.

    The second is not related to the Savoie case but continues the Kyungh Lah streak of absolutely horrid reporting on divorce in Japan:

    In Japan, a country that lacks sufficient medical services for disabled children, the only person to care for Spencer is his father. Morrey says his wife left, overwhelmed by the strain of their son’s medical condition.

    It’s really quite hard to describe my growing frustration with this level of journalism.

    Joe, your article was extremely informative – thanks for the write-up!

  37. Re dual citizenship: The law doesn’t actually state that dual citizenship is impossible. What it states is the the Ministry of Justice has the power to force a dual citizen over the age of 20 to choose one country or the other or have their Japanese citizenship stripped from them, but this is not an automatic provision. A government official has to explicitly invoke it, and in many cases they just don’t bother to. This is overlooked most often in cases where someone is born a dual citizen, but as has been mentioned above, when someone naturalizes as Japanese they are still often not required to provide adequate proof that they have given up their other nationality. In fact, the process of naturalization requires the existence of a period of dual citizenship, since it is impossible under international law to renounce your sole nationality and become stateless.

  38. The Yomiuri has an article today titled “Govt unlikely to sign child custody pact for 2 years”

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20091019TDY01301.htm

    “...But it likely will take some time until the country is able to facilitate such a move by addressing the necessary domestic laws. Under the convention, signatory countries are obliged to help locate a child who has been taken away and return the child to the country where he or she originally lived.”

  39. Here’s an interesting book review on Japanese divorce, 1600-2000, examining cultural, legal, and economic factors and especially examining the effect of the 1898 Civil Code on divorce rates, which is said to be little because most divorces
    are by agreement.

    http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/fuess1004.htm

    Here’s an academic, Stephen Baskerville, that is very critical of the U.S. divorce system.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzyhK-9s3UM

    I disagree with or am uncomfortable with many of his positions, but he raises valid concerns, and it’s interesting that the system of non-fault divorces with strong state intervention that he criticizes is essentially the system that Japan is being asked to create.

  40. I knew Baskerville was conservative, but he also teaches at a Christian college. He talks about home-schooling. This raises another connection with U.S. criticisms of Japan. The U.S., along with Somalia, has not signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is largely because of opposition from conservative Christians. Japanese lawyers cite the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Japan has ratified and which recognizes the right of children to see both parents, as a reason Japan should sign the Hague Convention.

    Meanwhile, Australia’s new liberal government may roll back a shared parenting law passed by the prior conservative government.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26228074-5013404,00.html

  41. I wonder why Japan is 4th place. Mexico, Canada and UK are rather obviously the top 3 countries to have international marriages with US citizens, but is Japan really 4th place? At first I thought “there aren’t THAT many Americans in Japan”, but I suppose with all the military bases there actually are, and the military circles pretty much don’t overlap at all with the non-military expats, so we don’t normally consider how many of them there are.

  42. Thank you very much for the link you have provided to The Japan Children’s Rights Network website – http://www.crnjapan.net

    I wanted to point out that crnjapan is a .net and not a .com as stated above.

    “This brings us to the international aspect of Japanese divorce law. International divorces are common in Japan, but not exactly in the form familiar to readers of Debito.org or crnjapan.com (SHOULD BE .net) . 7.1% of divorces in Japan in 2007 involved a non-Japanese party. The most common combinations were:

    Japanese husband, Chinese wife (1.97%)
    Japanese husband, Filipina w..”

    Thank you again for assisting in educating people on this subject.

    Regards;

    Mark Smith
    The Japan Children’s Rights Network

  43. what are the rights of an illegitimate child of a japanese national? japanese father is still married and the child is in the costudy of filipina mother but wishes to bring her child to japan with her.. is it possible? thank you very much..

  44. The child is in the Philippines? If so, that is entirely a matter of Philippines law since neither Japan nor the Philippines is a signatory to the relevant Hague treaty. I assume though that as long as the father acknowledges paternity of the child, it will be accepted by both countries. Of course, if the mother denies it he may have to undergo a blood test or something.

  45. I don’t think lei chang’s case is about contested custody. It might be about contested parentage. If the father freely acknowledges the child is his then things ought to be quite easy now.

    The Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that denying Japanese citizenship to children born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and foreign mothers is unconstitutional. The government planned a revision to the Nationality Law to include the following: provisions:
    —Japanese fathers’ acknowledgement of paternity will be the sole requirement for children to obtain Japanese citizenship, removing the requirement for parents’ marital status from the provision.
    —Those who have falsely claimed paternity will face imprisonment or a fine of up to 200,000 yen.

    I haven’t follow the issue closely enough to see that the changes were actually passed but the Supreme Court decision has already invalidated the old law.

  46. Hi Mutantfrog. A bit late, but I blogged on Joe’s post today. Here’s what I said:

    http://www.debito.org/?p=4878

    Excerpt:

    I often stop by an excellent website run by some young-Turk commentators on Japan called Mutantfrog. Full of insight and well-thought-out essays, one caught my eye a few weeks ago regarding what the Savoie Child Abduction Case has brought to the fore about divorce in Japan. It made me draw some harsh conclusions. Here they are:

    NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.

    NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.

    Because if people marry and have kids, one parent will lose them, meaning all legal ties, custody rights, and visitation rights, in the event of a divorce. This is not good for the children.

    Japan has had marriage laws essentially unamended since 1898! (See Fuess, Divorce in Japan) Clearly this does not reflect a modern situation, and until this changes people should go Common-Law (also not an option in Japan), and make it clear to their representatives that Japan’s current legal situation is not family-friendly enough for them to tie the knot.

    Some reforms necessary:

    Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one child or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).
    Recognize Visitation Rights (menkai ken) for both parents during separation and after divorce.

    Recognize Joint Custody (kyoudou kango ken) after divorce.

    Enforce the Hague Convention on Child Abductions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Enforce overseas custody court decisions in Japanese courts.

    Recognize “Irreconcilable Differences” (seikaku no fuitchi) as grounds for divorce.

    Shorten legal separation (bekkyo) times from the current benchmark of around five years to one or two.

    Stock the Mediation Councils (choutei) with real professionals and trained marriage counselors (not yuushikisha (”people with awareness”), who are essentially folks off the street with no standardized credentials).

    Strengthen Family Court powers to enforce contempt of court for perjury (lying is frequent in divorce proceedings and currently essentially unpunishable), and force police to enforce court orders involving restraining orders and domestic violence (Japanese police are disinclined to get involved in family disputes).
    ENDS

  47. CORREX:

    Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one child or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).

    should read

    Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one PARENT or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).

  48. Debito has a very complimentary write-up about MFT on his blog. He refers to you guys as “young Turks.”

    -catone – “young Turks”

  49. “NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.
    NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.”

    Correction:

    NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED AND HAVE CHILDREN UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.
    NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.

    And isn’t that actually what is happening with declining birth rates….?

  50. I’ve drafted a set of five (5)statutes concerning enforcement of Parental Rights, if the readers here could help me by questioning any of the statutes, offering suggestions, and any intellectual thoughts you have please do so on this board and others where I will post it. My intent is to give a final version to the Ministry of Justice on behalf of Left-Behind Parents. Without a strong enforcement mechanism I’m afraid Japan will evade its responsibility although it signs the Hague.

    Enforcement Mechanism

    Should a non-custodial parent be unlawfully denied contact with his/her child by the custodian or guardian of the child the non-custodial parent may request the Family Court to put him/her back in contact with the child.

    When a non-custodial parent has been unlawfully denied contact to his/her child the Family Court shall, without delay, take the necessary actions to immediately put the bereaved parent back in contact with his/her child.

    The Family Court shall restore the bereaved parents contact with the child within seven (7) days. The term contact means physical contact.

    Should the Family Court not be able to restore the bereaved parents contact with the child within fourteen (14) days a warrant will be issued for the child and the person holding the child, the custodian or guardian of the child, and anyone involved in obstructing contact with the child.

    Upon issuance of a warrant the custodial parent or guardian of the child will have his/her rights of custody to the child automatically transferred to the bereaved parent.

  51. I had no idea either, and it sounds terrible. It reminds me of the recent case in which a US judge was found to be sentencing juveniles to long sentences in private run youth prisons in exchange for bribes – a scam that I can’t help but think of as a slavery ring.

  52. That’s Premium Content and not accessible.
    Which is odd – the CHE forums never used to be Premium Content….

  53. Okay, found it, thanks.
    Blimey, the Akita International University thread is still active. Shit, do full profs there get 12 million? That’s more than they got at my (national) university. This is funny: “kenkyu s***su”

    Oh, interesting about Germany too. Always useful to get a different perspective.

  54. There’s an icon saying it’s premium content, but I don’t have an account and I’m seeing the post fine.

  55. If you had the experience of having children, and then experienced having them abducted, you would lose your odjectivity and gain some wisdom instead.
    Wisdom beats objectivity anyday for giving good life-advice.
    Also, if you had chldren, and had them taken away by a Japanese citizen, I doubt you would be so stupid as to marry any Japanese citizen again.
    Without having had your own chldren, and knowing the depth and intensity of the love a healthy parent experiences for that child, you simply have no idea what you are talking about. If you read a book about giving birth, it doesn’t mean you understand the experience a bearing chldren.

  56. “if you had chldren, and had them taken away by a Japanese citizen, I doubt you would be so stupid as to marry any Japanese citizen again”

    That logic contains very little wisdom, m.

  57. Nice blog; a real service.

    I just wanted to correct a couple of things about my own writings.
    First, I did not “lose my kid” in a Japanese divorce proceeding.
    Second, I the manual for which I provided translated extracts is not the family court’s manual (i.e., a government publication), but rather a commercially-published manual written for family court mediation practitioners. But it is not an “official reference for judges.”

    If I could just add a couple of other points which might be interest:

    1. The real process by which parents often lose their kids is not the custody determination at divorce, but the award of guardianship (or physical custody, etc.) in anticipation of divorce under Article 766 of the Civil Code. This is a provision that was added to the Civil Code before the war to make it possible for women to raise the children after the divorce even though the father had legal custody. Now it is used before divorce to allow one parent (usually the mother) to raise the children UNTIL divorce, when the continuation of the arrangement to be rubber-stamped by the divorce court. Since Article 766 only talks about such an arrangement AFTER divorce, this exceptionally common procedural practice involves judges simply ignoring the black letter of the law.

    2. Furthermore, the Article 766 disposition is often made during mediation or as a decree at the end of an unsuccessful mediation, meaning it is made without any formal fact finding, other than possibly a court investigator evaluation. Astoundingly, despite being required by the court, held in a courthouse and being administered by people appointed by the court, family court mediation is considered to be an “out of court” dispute resolution mechanism. This is convenient for the courts, since it means they are not responsible for the results, yet the information gathered in the course of mediation can still be used as the basis for making a judicial decision if one is necessary. Mediation proceedings being non-public, this also means that the fact-finding process by which a custody determination is made is extremely difficult to challenge. One parent literally may not know, or have a right to see all the information the other parent is submitting. Interestingly, this implies that there are no fundamental rights in the parent-child relationship in Japan, since under the constitution all such trials have to be in open court (though of course the official view would probably be that the mediation process is “not a trial” – it is just the non-trial process by which you might lose all contact with your children).

  58. Colin, thanks for stopping by.

    I apologize for that first error. I was recalling one of your law review articles where an early footnote said “based on the author’s personal experience in the child custody system” or something to that effect, and that apparently gave me the wrong impression about your background in the field.

  59. My situation seems to be unique and I have had some trouble finding helpful info so if someone out there sees this note and can help or can perhaps recommend a place to get advice I would be forever grateful. I am a New Zealand citizen married to an English woman. We were married in Japan and have two children who were both born in Japan. We both have permanent residency as do both our sons. My wife and sons all hold british passports. I am in the process of getting the boys NZ passports. We are on the cusp of seperation and I am trying to find out the best location to initiate divorce proceedings. The UK, Japan or NZ. The marriage was first registered in Japan in 2000 and in the UK in 2001. In order to get the best result especially with regard to custody and access to the children I am wondering which justice system to use for these proceedings. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

  60. The author writes:
    “Another aside, at the risk of pissing off all the divorced men in the room: I find the use of PAS theory in custody disputes difficult to swallow. Sure, in theory it’s better for kids to have contact with both parents and view both parents as respectable people. In practice, if the parents can’t hold their marriage together, they probably can’t refrain from filling their kids’ heads with crazy talk about each other. So how is bouncing the kids back and forth between homes, and introducing two conflicting stories between the parents in the process, less traumatic for the kids than having one consistent story?”

    Mmmm….I’m not what point he is actually trying to make, but I can assure him that PAS is a very real phenomenon and is actually very easily caused by subjecting “crazy talk” about the other parent to the kids. However to say that parents who can’t hold their marriage together have to resort to such behavior is a pretty big leap of logic indeed….

    My Japanese wife and I are divorcing because we know we cannot be happy together. We both love our children very much and want the best thing for them, which I think any reasonable person would realise is to keep their relationship with both parents….in order to do this – the best for our children – my wife and I need to remain nice and civil to one another (which is a whole lot easier now we are not living together) – is this really such an impossible thing to do for the sake of your children??....I certainly don’t think so in many cases in the West, where I know of several positive cases of shared access. The only reason it seems to be less prevalent in Japan is because there seems to be this tradition of total separation of the children from one of the parents with divorce…..I feel nothing but sympathy for westerners who have fallen victim to this ‘tradition’...but I also find it really strange that it comes to this with someone you chose to marry and who presumably you loved and with whom you shared at least some common values and beliefs…...yes, people do all sorts of crazy things during a marriage breakup – my wife included as she could not handle the stress of it. But it doesn’t always have to lead to all-out warfare does it?...if both parents can put their children first then, then you should be able to work it out and make the sacrifices necessary for the sake of your kids – it boggles my mind that people can’t do that and yet still want to be a parent….because in such cases I would question how you can say you really ‘love’ your child….
    What do you do with a Japanese national who refuses to cooperate and think this way? I’m not sure….all I can suggest is that to fight them will probably only make matters worse and lead to total zero-sum warfare….being understanding, generous and compassionate to your partner is the only way to a win-win result….I realise this doesn’t always work – but don’t assume that is never does…

  61. Hi,

    My soon to be ex-wife and I are both US citizens married in Japan. I currently hold a Japanese citizenship as I’m dual. She’s filing the divorce paperwork through the city hall there in Japan. Once I receive it do I need to have it officailly translated and then submit to US court to be issued a divorce decree? Or, is the Japanese divorce paperwork (translated) the ssame thing as a divorce decree here in the states?

    Thanks in advance for your time.

  62. Is anybody here can give some advice or give steps on how to get divorce with my husband?I am married for 7yrs with my Japanese husband,no child,no property,we don’t even have private contact(sex)...
    I asked him if he will grant me and sign the divorce paper if i wanted to get divorce with him…but he answered me that,’‘I WILL, BUT U WILL HAVE TO PAY THE EXPENSES THAT I SPENT WITH U AFTER ALL THESE YEARS’‘...
    Now i’m confused,,and afraid that i can’t divorce him because of what he told me…

  63. Is there any law about what my husband said?? I mean,do he have the right to do that to me?PLEASE i need some help,on how to do it and what things and steps to do if ever i make move for him to sign the divorce paper…
    THAN YOU in advance and GOD BLESS everyone!

  64. SORRY i forgot that i am Filipina,and we got married in Philippines…
    Thank u again in advance and God Bless… :)

  65. Charity: First, I’m not a lawyer so take what I say with a grain of salt. I am certain, however, that your husband cannot make you pay what he is asking. He can draw out the divorce procedure, however. Can you speak Japanese? You need to talk to a lawyer in person as soon as possible. As I understand it, if he does not sign, there is a very good chance that you can get a mediated divorce and there is no way that you will have to pay him.

  66. Ale:

    I have seen two lawyers about this topic in the past month. Of the three levels of Japanese divorce (mutual consent, mediation, family court), only the last one is recognized as valid by most States. Both lawyers told me if I can by some miracle get my wife to agree to anything (mutual consent), foreigners can have the family court perform some rubber-stamp formality that gives it enough legal weight to satisfy their home country’s court system.

  67. Thanks to both of u ALE and JOE JONES..
    To Joe Jones: Nope i haven’t talk to any lawyers yet.Coz i don’t have the chance to do it.I mean,sad to say that i can’t even go out alone…And i don’t even know how and where to start it…And maybe he’s thinking that i can’t do anything or nothing coz he knew that i know nothing about the divorce processing here in japan…
    If ever i go back home to Philippines,can i file a divorce there?(THE JAPAN EMBASSY there in Phil?)Is it valid?Even if i will not show up personally here in japan?I want to do it here,but i’m afraid what might gonna happen to me here…
    Sorry for asking,but THANK YOU SO MUCH for responding to my problem..
    GOD BLESS both of you,and whoever respond to this questions of mine…

  68. Me and my son – we are US citizens (born and lived in NYC) – but my Japanese wife isn’t – she went to japan with my son – promising to come back soon – never did and now 4 years later she filed for divorce from a small village somewhere in japan – she also wants full custody of my son and 20K after divorce from me – also the court paper says that I must bring/hire a lawyer from their village only – no foreign country nor big city (Tokyo or Kyoto or Takasaki) lawyers must be used – therefore I really cannot do what the court asks due to missing unbiased lawyers in their village – and there only 2 lawyers in their village both of them work under my wife’s father wing who is the solid mayor of that village for over 10 years now – so what should I do if they force-divorce me in japan and will that become an adequately recognizable divorce in New York State and/or California State (where I am moved now) – I don’t know if anyone is still around this blog but I just found it and decided to ask in good faith if someone can reply without prejudice and misinformation -

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