Every Child

Has Two Parents


Divorcing a Japanese Spouse Who Has Gone Back to Japan (No Children)


I am an American citizen married to a Japanese national for almost 12 years; however, for almost 3 of those 12 years, we have lived apart.  I am currently living in the United States and my spouse is in Tokyo.  I left Tokyo about three years ago for a new job in the US.  Our plan at the time was for my spouse to join me after regaining his/her green card (the reentry permit had expired), but he/she dragged his/her feet and avoided processing the application with the American Embassy.  I filed for divorce in the US a year later since I felt he/she had no intention of leaving Japan to be with me.  He/she has had the Separation and Property Settlement agreement since last year.  He/she has repeatedly told me that s/he would sign it, but has made numerous excuses about why s/he hasn't signed.  We have no children, so it is simply a division of assets.

Is there any way I can divorce him/her through the Japanese legal system for reasons of absenteeism?  If so, could you give me some details on how I can go about this?


I am not a lawyer, so for accurate information, you should consult one.  But here are some comments.

I believe that divorce is doable by abandonment after 3 years.  But that may require proof of not being able to find the other person.  You would really have to consult a Japanese lawyer to find out.

If you can catch him/her in a moment of weakness, your best bet would be to get him/her to sign a Divorce By Mutual consent form in Japan, and bring it into a local government office.  That's all it takes in Japan.  But two caveats:

1) It is best, but not required, that both of you go into the office to turn in the form.  Its best because I think that would go over best in a US court of law, where there is some doubt whether they would accept a Divorce By Mutual consent.  (Although I used it and have had no problem.  You are likely only to have a problem if your ex-spouse decides to cause trouble later.  But my personal non-lawyer opinion is that as long as you both intended the divorce, you should have no problem.  Time passing would certainly make it more and more difficult to prove otherwise.)

2) If you have to give him/her something (i.e. money, property, etc.) in advance in return for signing in Japan, be sure not to give up anything valuable that would require Japanese courts to adjudicate if s/he decided not to sign at the last moment.  I know a guy right now whose wife has basically stolen their house, and the Japanese courts are pressuring him to agree to a valuation that is a fraction of its market value in order to get the divorce and hopefully visitation with his child.  For this and other reasons, the thing to keep in mind is that if you go to a Japanese court with something to lose, you will almost always loose it.

If you have no children, and no financial assets though, i.e. nothing IN JAPAN to lose, you do have the option of trying.  In fact, a man often gets off with a single lump sum payment of alimony that is less than it would be in the US where they divide all the assets.  Your wife should know this, so it may be effective just to threaten to go to court in Japan.  (This could also apply in case the woman was the main provider for the family.)  On the other hand, if you have committed any "offenses against the marriage" such as having a girlfriend, the court can assign blame and also make you pay consolation money.  I dont know how much this can be.  On the other hand, if she has done so, you can probably push through a divorce under your terms.  If both of you have, who knows what would happen.  The blame may be based on who committed the infidelity first.  There are other offenses that can cause blame to be assign also, I think, and so unless you have been extremely virtuous, you should consult a Japanese lawyer. As usual, watch out for false claims of abuse, as Japanese courts do not seem to penalize a spouse for lying in court.

The negatives of being in Japan is that it can take a long long time. Unless you have leverage, such as proof of his/her adulterous behavior, I believe s/he can drag out a divorce endlessly there also.  I have heard of it going on for many years.  Your having filed in Japan could also prejudice your case in the US.  You should check with a US lawyer before doing anything.

Finally, a knowledgeable US lawyer might be able to offer additional suggestions.  You may want to call a guy named Jeremy Morley, listed at the bottom of this page.


He seems to know his stuff.  (If you do, please tell him you got his name from Mark at CRNJapan website.)  If you speak Japanese, I recommend Mr. Kamiya in Tokyo, listed here:


Also see our page on divorce.


The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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