How to divorce as an Expat in Japan

Divorce in Japan

If you are a British national who is resident in Japan, it is possible for you to divorce there, provided that you are able to satisfy the grounds for divorce.

Grounds for divorce

If you are an expatriate living in Japan, you may be able to divorce through the courts in Japan if you meet one of the criteria under Article 770 (1) of the Japanese Civil Code, as follows:

  1. Your spouse has committed an act of adultery
  2. Your spouse has abandoned you in bad faith;
  3. If it has been unclear for three years or more whether your spouse is alive or dead;
  4. If your spouse is suffering from severe mental illness and there is no prospect of recovery; or
  5. There is any other grave cause making it difficult for you to continue the marriage.

Even if one of the grounds above is proved, the court may dismiss a suit for divorce if it finds that continuing the marriage is reasonable in all the circumstances. The law does not provide for any length of separation as a ground for divorce but the court would consider a separation as a possible grave cause under (5) above.

For those considering a divorce through the courts in Japan, it is important to note that court based conciliation is required prior to filing for divorce.


When considering how assets should be divided on divorce, it is usual for property that is acquired by the couple during their marriage to be divided equally. Property which has been inherited or received as a gift may be disregarded.


When parents divorce in Japan, only one parent will have sole parental authority over the children. This means that the parent with custody is allowed to make all the decisions relating to the children. This extends to deciding to move to another country with the children away from the other parent.

As a British Expatriate considering divorce in Japan, it is essential to also obtain advice from a Japanese family lawyer as well as an English lawyer. Please contact us for details of Japanese specialists or to obtain assistance with divorce through the English Courts.

With thanks to attorney Makiko Mizuuchi for her assistance in the preparation of this article. Ms Mizuuchi can be contacted at:

Mimosa International Law Office

TEL 81+(0)48-271-5085

303 Daini Masaki Building, 2-4-5 Namiki, Kawaguchi City.

Saitama Prefecture, 332-0034, Japan


For consideration as to whether British expatriates in Japan may divorce remotely through the English courts, please contact or telephone us on (+44) 20 3096 7169.