Family Law

Let Us Help Your Family

Attorney Nozomu Ohara and his staff of bilingual family law attorneys understand that sensitive domestic issues need to be treated with care and respect. We have experience in working with all types of family law matters, both Japanese and international, and we work hard to protect our clients’ interests. Mr. Ohara has worked for many years within local and international legal institutions on Japan’s implementation of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction and our law firm is ready to use that experience to help you obtain the results that you want.

You Deserve the Best Possible Outcome in Divorce

Navigating the minefield of divorce proceedings in Japan can be a tricky issue, only complicated further by the complexities involved in dissolving an international relationship.

Our law firm has years of experience working on international divorce cases in Japan and understand the unique cultural and linguistic issues that complicate the delicate issues involved in these matters. We strive to educate and inform our clients about the Japanese legal issues involved while working hard to resolve them in the best possible manner for our clients. We strive to give our clients piece of mind in what can be a stressful and confusing process.

We’re here to help, regardless of the type of divorce

In order to best serve our clients immediate and future needs, our lawyers seek solutions that prioritize the client’s wishes while minimizing the need for long and costly legal battles. We fight to give our clients the best possible outcome for the cases, regardless of whether the divorce is resolved inside or outside of a courtroom.

There are three typical methods of divorce in Japan: Divorce by Agreement, Divorce by Mediation, and Divorce by Litigation.

Divorce by agreement (協議離婚 kyōgi rikon) is the simplest way to obtain a divorce in Japan. To obtain a divorce by agreement, couples need to agree on an amicable division of their property and custody for their children. After filling out a simple divorce registration (離婚届 rikon todoke), both parties will sign, or stamp their hanko, on the form. This form is then delivered to the local city office to complete the divorce.

International couples are also allowed to obtain divorces by agreement but there are several downsides that need to be considered. First, due to the simple nature of the divorce registration form, there is no space to write in visitation agreements for children.

Furthermore, divorces by agreement are carried out at government offices without the involvement of a court of law and therefore they may not be considered valid under the laws of foreign states. Therefore, it is always best to discuss with a lawyer before considering obtaining a divorce by agreement.

Divorce by mediation (調停離婚 chōtei rikon) can be obtained by couples who can agree on the need to divorce but cannot agree on a division of property or custody. Couples will attend mediation sessions at their local family court where they will meet separately with mediators to discuss potential ways to reach an amicable agreement.

International couples may wish to pursue a divorce by mediation because, unlike a divorce by agreement, a divorce by mediation has the advantage of being a judicial process recognized by most countries around the world. Furthermore, the cost, simplicity, privacy and ability to negotiate through potential problems are preferable to a divorce by litigation.

Divorcing by litigation (裁判離婚 saiban rikon) is the last option when couples are unable to agree to the terms of a divorce in mediation. Couples must be able to prove in court a reason for their divorce, which could include adultery or breakdown of the marriage.

Divorces by litigation result in a court order of divorce, fully enforceable in most countries around the world, so international couples who pursue this option are more likely to have their divorce recognized in their home country than if they obtained a divorce by agreement.

If a couple has registered their marriage both in Japan and overseas, simply divorcing in one country will not affect their marriage in the other.  In other words, until a divorce is completed in Japan, a couple will be considered married in Japan even if they have divorced overseas.

However, it is relatively simple to enforce a foreign divorce in Japan.  As long as the couple has a final divorce judgment issued by a foreign court, registering the divorce in Japan can be accomplished by having the judgment recognized by a Japanese court.  In general, Japanese courts will recognize a foreign divorce judgment as long as proper notice was given and the judgment can no longer be appealed.

It is important to note that, while a foreign divorce can usually be registered relatively smoothly, specific agreements regarding custody or support may or may not be recognized.

If you have a divorce case you would like our advice on or have questions regarding divorce and Japanese law, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Your rights under the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on Child Abduction is a treaty that governs the return of children who have been taken overseas against the wishes of one parent. With Japan becoming a signatory nation to the Convention, parents of children who are abducted to or from Japan will now have recourse to a court of law to secure the return of their child.

Mr. Ohara is an expert on the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and has extensively studied return procedures and implementation of the treaty. Mr. Ohara has authored published papers on the Convention and keeps up to date on the latest decisions emanating from Convention cases. Mr. Ohara has also worked with the Osaka Bar Association in Japan to stage mock mediation sessions under the Convention to promote awareness within the Japanese legal community about the Hague Convention.

There are two main types of applications made under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction: Applications for Return Orders and Applications for Visitation.

Return orders form the basis of the Hague Convention and are the main tool used under the Convention to return children to their habitual residence. To obtain a return order, the petitioning parent must show, among other things, that the child was wrongly removed from his or her habitual residence in violation of the parent’s custody rights.

If a return order is issued, courts in both countries will work together to ensure the safe return of the child. However, the decision to return the child is a complicated one and often will require analysis of many other factors. Therefore, it is always best to consult with an experienced lawyer beforehand. The application for a return order under the Hague Convention is not retroactive. In other words, parents whose children have been abducted prior to the implementation of the Hague Convention cannot apply for a return order.

Securing effective rights of access to the child, such as visitation, is also an important aspect of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. Under the Convention, parents have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of access to their child. Therefore, both countries are obligated to take the necessary steps to remove as many obstacles as possible from both parents being able to exercise visitation with their child.

Unlike applications for return orders, applications for visitation may be filed retroactively. This means that parents of children who were abducted before the Hague Convention took effect can still apply to secure their right of access after the Hague Convention is implemented.

Mr. Ohara’s vast experience with international family law provides a strong foundation for his work with the Hague Convention. If you have a case originating under the Hague Convention or have questions regarding whether you should file a petition, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.