National / Crime & Legal

Japanese lawmakers enact law on court jurisdiction for international divorces

Kyodo

The Diet on Wednesday enacted a revised law stipulating Japanese court jurisdiction over international divorce, in a move expected to speed up lengthy proceedings.

Before the revision, determination of court jurisdiction could take years as the previous law had no provision on the matter. The legislation will be put into effect in the near future, and will enter into force within the following 18 months.

The revised law on personal status litigation details the circumstances under which an international couple or a Japanese couple with one or both spouses living outside Japan can file for divorce in a Japanese court, taking into account evidence and relevant parties’ links to Japan.

The amended law provides that a lawsuit can be filed with a Japanese court if the defendant’s address is in Japan, if both husband and wife are Japanese nationals, or if a couple’s last common residence and the plaintiff’s current address is in Japan.

For instance, cases that can be handled by a Japanese court will include a foreign national living outside Japan and seeking divorce with a Japanese spouse in Japan or a Japanese national living in Japan requesting divorce from a foreign national who moved abroad but had lived with the Japanese spouse in Japan immediately before their separation.

But a Japanese court may deny jurisdiction under special circumstances, such as a couple having lived separately for a long period of time with almost no evidence to establish their last common residence in Japan.

According to the Justice Ministry, 634 divorce suits involving foreign nationals were filed in Japan in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Diet also enacted a revised law that stipulates a request for adoption can be filed with a Japanese court regardless of nationality as long as adoptive parents or adopted children are expected to live in Japan.

In 2016, 381 adoption requests involving foreign nationals were filed in the country.