Law failing non-Japanese in forced divorces: advisory group


Is it “too easy” to get a divorce in Japan?

There is an increasing number of cases of foreign women claiming their former Japanese husbands divorced them by submitting “uncontested divorce” papers in which signatures were faked, according to a group that advises foreign divorcees.

Mutually agreed divorces in Japan do not require court proceedings. Application papers are submitted to municipal government offices and the presence of both parties is not required. The system is unfair to foreign spouses who have difficulty communicating in Japanese, the advisory group says.

One such case is that of 44-year-old Marietta David from the Philippines, which came to the attention of the Association for Toyonaka Multicultural Symbiosis, a cooperative foundation in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.

In 2001, David married a Japanese man she met while working as a dancer in a bar in Kumamoto Prefecture. They moved to the Philippines and had two children.

But after around three years, the couple’s relationship deteriorated and she suffered domestic violence.

Her husband moved back to Japan, leaving David and the children in the Philippines. She did not want a divorce and tried to contact him without success.

It was only in 2011 when she returned to Japan and sought to register as a nursing care worker that she discovered her husband had divorced her.

“I never signed papers,” she said, and did not know “why and how a divorce could be finalized.” She said her husband must have forged the divorce papers.

Such faked divorces are easy in Japan, David says, calling for a system that confirms both parties’ consent. She has since given up demanding that the divorce be nullified.

Under the current system, authorities do not need to confirm the consent of both parties. A finalization notice in Japanese is delivered to the address on the applicants’ residence certificate. If a spouse does not consent, he or she can inform authorities not to accept divorce papers submitted by the other party.

Justice Ministry officials admit that the current system is problematic.

Kaori Yoshijima, an adviser at the Toyonaka foundation, said, “Even if people want to contest the validity of divorces, the judicial process is too complicated, and many are forced to accept them.”

The foundation said it received 67 complaints from foreigners regarding unwanted divorce in the year ending March 2015 and 69 cases in the nine months through the end of that year.

Shuhei Ninomiya, a professor at Ritsumeikan University who specializes in family law, said the system of uncontested divorce was not common outside Japan.

South Korea, for example, had a similar system but family courts were required to confirm both parties’ consent and there was more information on divorce procedures, such as booklets, available for foreigners, according to Ninomiya.

“The system has a reasonable aspect, but it is not easy for foreigners to understand. Even Japanese people are not very familiar with the fact that one can apply to contest a divorce,” Ninomiya said.

  • Pink Floyd

    As usual an archaic system still in place in Japan coupled with the fact that NJ have no real human rights and you have issues like this that happening more frequently now. There have also been many stories of Japanese women doing this to their foreign husbands, or ex husbands as the case may be.

  • GBR48

    If the signatures were fake, none of the consequent paperwork should be legal. If the men went on to marry someone else, they would be bigamists.

    You would assume that a phone call from the wife to the local police or local government should have their husband (and he should still legally be their husband) arrested for fraud. But no. Apparently fraud is OK in Japan in such circumstances.

    I guess the flip side is that women are well shot of creepy pond-life like this, who don’t sound like the type who would support their wives and kids within a marriage. Don’t forget to monitor their social media accounts, ladies, so you can advise their SMS friends and co-workers of their low ethics. Especially any women they befriend.

    • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

      He owes child support

      • GBR48

        I don’t doubt it. Men who would do this sort of thing are unlikely to meet their responsibilities. If the Japanese legal system can’t deal with someone faking a divorce, they are unlikely to deal competently with child support either. Obtaining child support in any country can be tough enough as it is, never mind across international borders. It isn’t surprising to find the law failing those who need it the most.

  • Yuki

    Or, you know, you could NOT DATE people who would pull stuff like this.

    Also (free license to flame me on this), being a “dancer” at a bar is not going to draw the best of people to you.

    • Charles

      “Or, you know, you could NOT DATE people who would pull stuff like this.”

      How can you predict with perfect certainty before getting married that someone isn’t going to pull stuff like this? You can’t. You can sometimes see warning signs, but not always. This seems like victim blaming.

      “Also (free license to flame me on this), being a “dancer” at a bar is not going to draw the best of people to you.”

      My level of respect for dancers at bars is indeed very, very low. I mean, I graduated from college (which I paid for myself) so I could get the job I have now, which pays approximately half of what most bar girls make, often without even a high school diploma.

      However, that’s beside the point. The point is that there are people out there committing forgery, and that is inherently wrong and also illegal. People who do illegal things should be arrested by the police, because police are supposed to uphold rule of law. Dancing in a club isn’t illegal. Forgery is.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Let me get this straight. You are condemning the woman for being a dancer, rather than condemning the the husband who committed domestic violence as well as forgery and left his children without a father.

      Rather than comment on the people who actually broke laws and acted in an unethical manner, you chose to condemn the woman simply because you do not approve of her occupation.

      I see.

      • Yuki

        The article is about divorce. The best way to avoid a messy divorce is to not marry someone who would do this sort of thing. I condemn the father absolutely for his behavior, but the wife could easily have avoided this by not marrying a jerk. I’d never fall for a guy who is like that, and yes, women CAN tell a guy’s personality. She went for the bad boy and is now shocked that he behaved badly.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Hardly. I married a businessman, a nice guy who was actually rather nerdy and conservative. Guess how he treated me? You’re making assumptions based on zero evidence. You’re blaming the victim. It’s a jerk move.

      • Pink Floyd

        The usual blame the victim dynamic that most Japanese pull on people, of course it cant be the fault of the Yamato, must be the dirty foreigner who has to take the blame.

    • Sacha Salvatore Morgese

      I see your point, but
      1) You’re generalizing and judging people and situations you don’t know (some people end up doing some jobs because they have no alternatives, some other like easy money with little to no effort)
      2) The problem is the law, not dumb people getting with even dumber people.

      …And that’s why the PC police busted you.

      With that said, yeah, you should not date some kind of people, but a lot of people in Japan don’t get married because they have feelings for each other, it’s mostly because they have/need to. There are so many desperate people that would literally marry anyone, to have kids, to have someone at home, to quit working, to have a spouse visa and so on.

  • Transform to Freedom

    None of that surprises me. Japanese law – culture, and custom – is highly inequatible, when it comes foreigners. Their legal and bureaucratic system is positively anachronistic, and very deliberately, nothing is ever translated into English, or any other language. And this certainly won’t change any of that. Good luck getting out Japan, people. It is “not” easy to do. Regards

    • Steve Jackman

      Yes, the Japanese judicial system is extremely corrupt, racist and xenophobic. Non-Japanese can never expect to be treated fairly by the sham of a system which passes for the judiciary in Japan.

    • Steve Jackman

      Yes, the Japanese judicial system is extremely corrupt, racist and xenophobic. Non-Japanese can never expect to be treated fairly by the sham of a system which passes for the judiciary in Japan.