The Justice Ministry has decided to establish rules to clearly define international divorce disputes that should be handled by Japan’s family courts, informed sources said Tuesday.
Such clear rules on the jurisdiction of the nation’s family courts would enable faster resolution of disputes between Japanese and non-Japanese couples during divorce, the sources said.
Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki will refer the issue to the Legislative Council at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 7. Japan will take necessary legislative steps and a new law could be implemented as early as 2015, according to the sources.
Regarding international civil disputes, Japan has established rules on the jurisdiction of domestic courts over disputes over contractual obligations between Japanese consumers and non-Japanese companies by revising the civil procedure code in 2011.
No similar rules exist for disputes in areas usually handled by family courts, such as divorce, probate and child-parent relations. At present, the courts decide whether to handle specific cases by looking at similar past cases.
Sometimes such disputes become protracted because litigants have to determine whether Japanese courts have jurisdiction over their cases in the first place.
The ministry’s officials are discussing what cases should be handled by the country’s family courts, in addition to those currently accepted, which are cases where present addresses of defendants are in Japan.
Many officials agree that the Japanese courts should cover cases in which current addresses of plaintiffs are in Japan and their spouses lived in the country during marriage. They also call for the jurisdiction of Japanese courts over cases in which the addresses of the plaintiffs are in Japan while the whereabouts of the defendants are unknown, according to the sources.
Some propose including cases in which only one of the two parties in a dispute has an address in Japan, they added.