By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

In Japan and most other countries in the world, marriage brings two people together not only in social union but in financial union as well. When a couple marries, it is generally expected that they will jointly share financial responsibilities to some degree. When a marriage ends in a divorce, the economic union between the couple must also be dissolved, leading many to wonder what will happen to property, whether acquired separately or jointly, after the divorce is finalized.

Read on to learn about how property will be divided based on Japanese law upon a divorce. First, let us define two key terms that will be important for your understanding of the below article.

  • Matrimonial asset: “An asset owned by one or both of two persons who are married to one another which, upon the application of one of the spouses to a court, is subject to division between them.” (Source: Duhaime’s Law Dictionary)
  • Alimony: “An allowance made to one spouse by the other for support pending or after legal separation or divorce.” (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Distribution of property

Concerning the distribution of property between spouses under Japanese law, the parties to the divorce generally will agree upon how to distribute the matrimonial assets. When the parties cannot agree on the division, a family court and divorce lawyers shall decide the matter by determining if distribution is appropriate and what/how much will be distributed between the parties. They will make this decision by accounting for how the assets were acquired through the cooperation of both parties.

Matrimonial assets

Matrimonial assets include real estate (such as house and land) and financial property (such as cash, deposits, shares, bonds, etc.). Under Japanese law, separate property includes property that was acquired prior to the marriage taking place or if it was property acquired in the name of only one spouse. Family heirlooms are considered separate property, for example. 

General practice in family courts

Japanese law does not provide precise rules for the division of property in a divorce, but generally matrimonial assets are divided equally between the two parties. If mortgage payments remain on the property, the total amount remaining once the balance due on the mortgage has been deducted from the property’s market value is considered a matrimonial asset to be divided upon divorce.

Community property

Japanese law follows the community property principle in which, during a marriage, property acquired by either spouse is considered joint property regardless of how much money each individual contributed to its purchase.

Alimony (konn-in hiyo)

Spousal support following a divorce is sometimes required. Alimony does apply under Japanese law, however, it is only applicable under specific circumstances and it is not continuous nor a form of income.

The “duty to maintain the standard of living” is essentially the Japanese form of alimony (konn-in hiyo), which means both parties must cooperate to help maintain a similar standard of living as prior to the divorce. This is only based on the living expenses that occurred during the duration of the marriage; furthermore, the konn-in hiyo is a one-time payment.

The konn-in hiyo includes daily living expenses, housing fees, medical expenses, education fees in the case of children, and other related expenses. As mentioned before, this duty is not continuous and if both parties are determined to have contributed equally to the living expenses involved in the marriage then neither party has to make this payment.

The konn-in hiyo is not the same as consolation money, which takes effect when the offending spouse inflicted mental or physical damage on their partner, the most common form of damage being adultery.

Important points

  • The right to demand the distribution of property expires within two years after the divorce.
  • Inheritance or property received as a gift is excluded from the division of assets.
  • If, during marriage, one spouse earned a great deal more than the other, the court may allocate more assets to the spouse who earned the most.

Consult an English-speaking lawyer in Japan

The facts presented here provide you with a basic understanding of property division upon divorce, but every case is different and the assistance of an English-speaking lawyer is highly recommended to avoid common pitfalls in divorce cases, especially when a foreign national is involved.

Call 03-6868-8647 for a consultation, or contact us through our online contact form.

This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice. For advice from a lawyer, please call the number listed above.

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