How-tos | LIFELINES

How to block a nonconsensual 'divorce by consent' from abroad

by Norimasa Tabata

A reader who signs off as “Desperate” writes: “I am married to a Japanese male and am considering submitting a fujuri todoke (request not to accept notification) because I’m worried my husband might file a rikon todoke (divorce notification paper) without my knowledge.

“As we are living outside Japan, it is difficult for me to submit a fujuri todoke in person at city hall in Japan. So, my questions are: 1) Is it possible for me to submit a fujuri todoke to the Japanese Consulate where I live? 2) If it is not possible, is there any other possible way for me to submit a fujuri todoke?”

Under Japanese law, a divorce can be finalized by mutual consent (kyōgi rikon), and the process couldn’t be simpler. Both parties are supposed to fill in a divorce notification paper — the aforementioned rikon todoke — which both then stamp (or sign, if the foreign spouse does not have a personal hanko seal) and submit to their ward office or city hall. One of the parties or even a third person can submit the paper. Kyōgi rikon takes immediate effect upon acceptance by the municipal office, and in practice, the paper is likely to be accepted even if one party has not given consent and his/her signature has been forged.

In a 2013 Lifelines column, “Fujuri todoke: a valuable insurance policy if your marriage is on the rocks” (bit.ly/fujuritodoke), Mikiko Otani advised a reader who was worried that their spouse might file a rikon todoke with a forged signature that they should consider submitting a fujuri todoke form, which would prevent the kyōgi rikon from being accepted at city hall. She also mentioned that a fujuri todoke must be submitted in person at city hall.

To answer Desperate’s first question, according to the Ministry of Justice, foreign spouses living outside Japan cannot submit a fujuri todoke to a Japanese Consulate abroad. However, it is possible for you to file a fujuri todoke by sending the document to the mayor of the Japanese spouse’s registered domicile, meaning their permanent residence. In this kind of case, notarized documents also need to be submitted to prove the sender is who they say they are.

So, first of all you should visit your nearest Japanese Consulate, collect a fujuri todoke form and fill it in. As well as all your contact and other details, you’ll need to include your spouse’s name, date of birth and the address of his registered domicile, as well as the name of the head of his family register. You’ll also have to supply documents to verify your identity, such as a photocopy of the main page of your passport — the one with your photo and passport number on — and have them legally authenticated by a notary public and translated into Japanese. Finally, you should send all the papers to the mayor of the Japanese spouse’s registered domicile.

Have any readers been through the process of filing from abroad to block a possible divorce in Japan? If so, please let us know how it went.

Norimasa Tabata is an attorney with the Foreign nationals and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (www.t-pblo.jp/fiss; 03-6809-6200). FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Your questions and other comments: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp