Moving on After a Divorce
A Clear Understanding of Divorce as an Expat
Although the number of international marriages in Japan has risen dramatically to 40,000 a year, unfortunately, over a third of couples will get divorced. They will not feel out of place in Okinawa as it has the highest rate of divorce in Japan, according to the Ministry of Health. Before and during divorce proceedings, it is always advisable to take appropriate legal counsel but, as a foreigner, it is even more important to be familiar with the Japanese legal system. Legal jargon can be complex in any language, so it’s important to get help understanding the procedure and have all necessary documents and certificates translated ready for a court date.
Focus on A Better Future
Divorce can be daunting but, when preparing for court, it’s important to stay positive and focus on the future, as any decisions made during the proceedings will have lasting consequences. Agreeing too soon to an inequitable settlement could be financially detrimental or affect the wellbeing of any children involved. Instead, by looking forward, divorce can be dealt with, not as something to be rushed through, but in the long-term as the beginning of a new phase in life.
Understanding Legal Proceedings
Fortunately, more than 90% of divorces in Japan are relatively straightforward and are arrived at through mutual agreement. Where this is not reached, it is necessary to apply for mediation or decision by the family court. Despite many mediators and advisors speaking good English, it is advisable for non-Japanese speakers to be accompanied to court by someone who can help complete registration forms. Not being able to understand forms that need their signature could leave clients vulnerable to becoming a victim of divorce without consent. This can then result in having to leave the country and losing access to children.
In any case, in Japan, only one parent will have sole parental authority over the children which means they are allowed to make all the decisions relating to the children, including moving to another country. For children under 10 years old, the mother will be granted custody in over 80 percent of cases. However, after the age of 10, children can have a say in deciding which parent to live with so, in the long term, keeping open channels of civil communication with all family members will make it easier to decide on an amicable arrangement.
Going through a divorce can be an overwhelming experience but with good counsel and support and by keeping lines of communication open the process can be less burdensome. Learning from the experience, it is then possible to feel a sense of liberation and be ready to make a fresh start in the future.