Unwillingly Signed Divorce Paper: A Case of Non Japanese Couple with Different Nationalities



I am a graduate student from country A.  I have a husband, who is from country B, and a child, who is two years old.  My husband and I met each other as foreign students and got married in Japan.  The three of us still live in Japan. 

My husband is not interested to take care of the child and has started to complain, “I want more free time,” and “I cannot get relaxed because of the kid.”

The other day, he asked me to sign my name to a divorce paper, saying that even though it is not legally effective, it makes him feel easy and free.

I signed the form without any intention to get a divorce as I was afraid that if I refuse it would adversely affect our relationship.

I hope it will not cause any problem just to sign a divorce paper as he says, but is that true?  (Ms. D in Osaka)
Reply by UCHIKOSHI Sakura 

You are both foreign residents in Japan, one from country A, and the other from country B.  If both of you are qualified for stay in Japan for academic purpose as a teacher or a researcher (as is specified in the annexed table 1 of the Immigration Control Act) and have been living in Japan for more than five years, you are considered to have “a habitual residence” (a place where you usually live)  in Japan.

If a married couple have different home countries (or their nationality is different from each other) and have the same habitual residence, the law of their habitual residence is applied (refer to Article 27 and 25 of the Act on General Rules for Application of Laws).  Therefore, in your case, the laws of Japan should be applicable.

If your husband goes to city office and hands in the divorce paper without your consent, it will be accepted and formally processed.  You can ask for arbitration or bring the case to court afterwards  (refer to Article 17 and Clause 1, Article 18) , it will be very difficult for you to establish that the divorce is invalid.

There is a system to avoid such difficulty in advance by submitting an application for nonacceptance of a divorce paper, but since neither you nor your husband have family register in Japan, you can not apply for such nonacceptance.

I advise you to get the signed divorce paper back from your husband before it becomes too late.  If all he wants is to feel free, why don’t you talk with hin to find other solutions than divorce. 

Original article on the WAN website (November 21, 2011)

Translated and adapted from the WAN website by FUKUOKA.A.A

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