To foreigners considering marriage with a Japanese person 日本人との結婚を検討している外国人の方へ

※This article is intended for foreigners considering marriage or divorce with a Japanese person.

We are a law firm specializing in handling divorce issues within Japan.

If you are viewing this website, you may be considering marrying a Japanese person in the future. Therefore, we will explain the necessary procedures for marrying a Japanese person, the rights and obligations that arise from marriage, and how divorce can be carried out.

Please note that we are assuming a scenario that you marry a Japanese person and live in Japan.

1 Documents Required for Marriage

Firstly, when marrying a Japanese person, there are two procedures: (1) the Japanese method of marriage, and (2) the foreign method of marriage. Either is possible. As a result, you and your partner will be treated as a married couple within Japan.

(1) Japanese Method of Marriage:

You need to submit a marriage registration form. The place of submission is the municipal office in the registered domicile of your Japanese partner. Marriage is established by the acceptance of the marriage registration. However, if you submit the marriage registration to the embassy or consulate of your country in Japan, according to the method of your country, you do not need to submit it to a separate Japanese office.

(2) Foreign Method of Marriage:

On the other hand, if you and your Japanese partner have legally married in your country, you need to submit the marriage registration to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country or to the municipal office in your partner’s registered domicile within three months of marriage.

2 Rights and Obligations Arising from Marriage

(1) Residency Status:

Through marriage with a Japanese person, you can obtain a residency status called “Spouse of a Japanese National” (often referred to as “Nippei”). This allows you not only to reside in Japan but also to work without restrictions within Japan.

The duration of residency can be applied for within 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, or 6 months. However, it should be noted that simply applying does not guarantee approval. Currently, a 5-year period is granted for stable long-term marriage periods.

Moreover, as a spouse of a Japanese national, if you continue the marital relationship for more than 3 years and reside in Japan for more than 1 year, you can acquire permanent residency status. The residency status will be “Permanent Resident.”

However, if you are separated from your spouse, there is a possibility that you cannot renew the residency status as a “Spouse of a Japanese National.” If you already have the residency status as a “Permanent Resident,” there is no issue.

(2) Support Obligation:

By marrying a Japanese person and residing in Japan, Japanese law applies. In this case, the spouse with the higher income has an obligation to support the spouse with the lower income.

During actual cohabitation, there may not be much need to be concerned about this obligation. The rules for sharing living expenses are usually naturally established.

However, when living separately, this support obligation becomes significant. If your income is lower than that of your Japanese spouse, you can claim living expenses from your spouse. Conversely, if you have a higher income, you are obligated to pay living expenses to your Japanese spouse.

The specific amount to be paid depends on each person’s income and whether children are living with either spouse. There is a table published by the courts, so please refer to it.

This obligation persists regardless of the cause of separation and continues until divorce. Even if the marriage deteriorates, these rights and obligations do not change.

3 Rules for Divorce

(1) Divorce is not easy:

If your spouse agrees to divorce, you can simply submit a divorce registration form to the municipal office, and the divorce can be finalized.

On the other hand, if your spouse does not agree to divorce, you will need to undergo mediation proceedings in court. If your spouse still does not agree to divorce even after mediation, you will need to file for divorce through litigation.

To obtain a divorce through litigation, certain requirements must be met.

The following are enumerated as legal grounds for divorce:

<Legal Grounds for Divorce>

(The requirements necessary for divorce to be granted through litigation)

2.Malicious desertion
3.Missing for more than 3 years
4.Severe mental illness
5.Other serious reasons that make the continuation of marriage difficult

(Civil Code of Japan Article 770, Paragraph 1)

In many countries, divorce is recognized with a period of separation of one or two years, regardless of the circumstances of the separation. However, in Japan, for the “Other serious reasons that make the continuation of marriage difficult” (item 5), a separation period of about 3 to 5 years is required.

Furthermore, if the cause of separation is adultery and the party who committed adultery seeks divorce, a separation period of about 10 years is required for divorce to be recognized. Otherwise, divorce will not be recognized as it may be considered an abuse of rights.

Although significantly different from the standards in other parts of the world, this was determined by an old precedent in 1983. Unless this precedent is changed by the Supreme Court, it is expected to continue as a rule.

(2) Division of Property:

In Japan, there is a system of property division upon divorce. The property accumulated during cohabitation is considered potentially shared by the couple. Regarding property, it will be divided equally at the time of divorce, with each spouse inheriting their share. In practice, the property accumulated until separation will be listed, and calculations will be made to ensure equal distribution, with the surplus being paid to the one who is lacking.

In Japan, this equal division of property is common, known as the “half-half rule.” Other proportions may be disputed in court, but in most cases, it is divided equally.

(3) Division of Pension:

Even if you do not hold Japanese citizenship, you can join Japan’s pension system. Regarding the Employees’ Pension or Mutual Aid Pension, you can receive a division of pension upon divorce.

However, to actually receive a pension, the total of your own insurance premium payment period and exemption period must be at least 10 years.

(4) Child Custody:

Currently, Japan has a sole custody system. Either the husband or wife will have custody of the children after divorce. Economic capabilities are mostly irrelevant; what matters is who has been the primary caregiver for the children or who they are currently living with if they are separated.

(5) Residency Status:

If you have permanent resident status, divorce will not affect it. However, if you divorce before obtaining permanent residency (i.e., if you remain with the residency status as a “Spouse of a Japanese National”), you will need to obtain a new residency status, otherwise settling in Japan will become difficult. Please pay attention to this point during divorce proceedings.

Our Thoughts as Lawyers

Our Thoughts as Lawyers

This time, we explained the effects of marrying a Japanese person and the contents of divorce for foreigners considering marriage with a Japanese person. Of course, it should also be helpful for those who are already married to a Japanese person and considering separation or divorce.

When it comes to marriage with Japanese nationals, there are particularly strict rules regarding divorce. Among them, the fact that divorce is not easily granted stands out the most. Once you choose to marry, even if you change your mind and want to start a different life, you may have to spend several years before being able to divorce.

With the current Japanese system in mind, consider marrying a Japanese person. Doing so will likely enable you to make a decision without regret in the future.