Getting a divorce in Japan and having it recognized in the Philippines
2016 has been a year of change for me. A great deal of change, in fact.
One of those big changes is my divorce with my husband of eight years.
4 Kinds of Divorce
There are four kinds of divorce in Japan. I am not the expert, so I am quoting what is posted on the US Embassy website:
Divorce by agreement (kyogi rikon), based on mutual agreement.
Divorce by mediation in a family court (chotei rikon), completed by applying for mediation by the family court (for cases in which divorce by mutual agreement cannot be reached).
Divorce by decision of the family court (shimpan rikon), which is divorce completed by family court decision when divorce cannot be established by mediation.
Divorce by judgment of a district court (saiban rikon). If divorce cannot be established by the family court, then application is made to the district court for a decision (application for arbitration is a prerequisite). Once the case is decided, the court will issue a certified copy and certificate of settlement, to be attached to the Divorce Registration.
Divorce in Japan. Embassy of the United States. < http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-7117.html >
In our case, it was less complicated because we didn’t have children. And my ex, fortunately, didn’t complicate things – we got a kyogi rikon, based on mutual agreement. All we needed to do was sign / stamp the document, have two witnesses sign/stamp the document and bring it to the city hall. The only thing you have to be careful about is the format ie the writing of your name, the kanjis used etc. The divorce took 30 minutes, the certificate itself costing around 300 JPY.
The updated koseki tohon (“family registry”) that indicates you are divorced took 18 days, from the date of filing to the issuing. NOTE that you cannot get your family registry in just about any city hall – you have to go to the city hall you are initially registered in with your former spouse (or give them a call, and maybe they can send it to you). In my case, I filed for the divorce in Kobe and got the updated family registry in Suginami.
ALSO, note that city halls operate independently of one another – they don’t coordinate with each other on your behalf. You would have to do the coordination yourself.
Getting your divorce recognized in the Philippines
This is the tricky part. Kung anong dinali nag pag file ng divorce sa Japan, ganun naman kahirap pag file sa Pilipinas!
I went to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo. The guy at the counter simply handed me a piece of paper that summarized the steps. The same information is found online on this site :
Let me quote the steps here :
Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce
There is no divorce in the Philippines, but when a divorce is validly obtained abroad by an alien spouse from his or her Filipino spouse, the Filipino spouse shall have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law. However, the divorce obtained abroad must be passed upon judicially by a Philippine court to prove its validity before the Filipino spouse can remarry under Philippine law.
The decision of the Philippine Court shall become the basis for the annotation of civil registry documents.
The following guidelines shall be followed in the annotation of the foreign-issued divorce decree with the Office of the Civil Registrar General in the Philippines:
- The foreign divorce decree must be judicially enforced or confirmed in the Philippines by filing the proper civil action at the Regional Trial Court in the Philippines (RTC-Phil).
- The court decision shall be registered in the Local Civil Registry Office (LCRO) where the concerned RTC-Phil functions.
- The registered document shall be submitted to the Local Civil Registrar where the marriage is registered. If the marriage was registered overseas, the registered document shall be submitted to the City Civil Registry Office at the Manila City Hall (CCRO Manila).
- The following documents shall be submitted to CCRO Manila in annotating a civil registry document:
- Original or Certified True Copy of the foreign judgment or order duly registered at the City Civil Registry Office at the Manila City Hall (CCRO Manila).
- Original or Certified True Copy of the Certificate of Finality of the decision of Regional Trial Court (RTC-Phil).
- Certificate of Registration of the decision of Regional Trial Court (RTC-Phil) at the Local Civil Registry Office (LCRO) where the concerned RTC-Phil functions.
- After the annotation at the Local Civil Registrar’s Office (LCRO), the annotated documents and its requirements must be submitted to the Office of the Civil Registrar-General (OCRG) in Manila.
NOTE: All documents sourced or obtained in Japan and intended for use and submission to Philippine authorities must undergo consular authentication at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo or the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka through verification of the seal and signature of a duly appointed official of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimusho).
More information about the legal procedures or hiring the services of a lawyer in the Philippines may be obtained from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) or the Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO) in Manila.
Below are some institutions I was encouraged by the embassy people to call.
INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES (IBP)
No. 15 Julia Vargas Avenue
Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Metro Manila, Philippines.
Tel: (+63-2) 631-3014 or 631-3018
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
PUBLIC ATTORNEY’S OFFICE (PAO)
4th and 5th Floors
DOJ Agencies Building
NIA Road corner East Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City
Metro Manila, Philippines.
Tel: (+63-2) 929-9436
I called PAO.
The PAO personnel said, “Kunin lahat ng documents related to the divorce. Have the Japanese documents translated. Then both the original and the translations should be authenticated (red ribboned) at either the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo or DFA in Manila. Then claim the CENOMAR sa Pilipinas. Then hire a lawyer, file it in court. Kailangan ng SPA.”
Let me summarize the steps in English :
- Obtain all the documents related to the divorce
- Have the Japanese documents translated to English
- Have all the documents (the original and the translations) authenticated /red ribboned at the embassy or DFA (if filing in the Philippines)
- Hire a lawyer and have the lawyer file it in court. Make sure you grant authority to your attorney by executing an SPA – special power of attorney. This is important if you cannot be in the Philippines physically.
Beware of brokers
There are “divorce brokers” now catering to divorcees. I went and inquired at one of these agencies and found that they charge a whopping JPY 650,000 – 800,000 to do all the work for you. NO THANK YOU! Be careful of their sales pitch claiming Kyogi Rikon might not be recognized – that is not true. Syempre, they want to sell. Besides, may mga connections naman ako.. As the saying goes, it’s not your net worth, it’s your network!!
Getting legal advice
I called my lawyer friend back home, who is, unfortunately, non-practicing now because her work forbids it. I also had my mom inquire with her lawyer on what to do. Medyo bago pa daw kasi tong recognition of foreign divorce, the lawyers claimed, kaya hindi pa nila kabisado. My lawyer friend advised me to do the same thing as above 1-3 (obtaining all the documents, etc). This was her text :
It would be faster daw kung recognition of divorce. Get authenticated copy of divorce decree and the divorce law as well as have the decree and law translated and authenticated. So far yun pa lang nakuha ko na requirements. I talked with the judge, he will give me copy of decisions para we can study on how to present your case.
So in addition to the documents related to the divorce, I also need to get a copy of the divorce law and have it translated AND authenticated… Take note that this information was indirectly from the judge who will handle my case.
So far, I have no idea where to get it. Maybe Japan has a book on family law, and in that case I need to quote the section about divorce and have it translated (or do it myself, if I want to save some $$$) . Quoting from a website is not allowed – remember you need to have this authenticated!!
So how long does this take?
Different lawyers will tell you different things. Now , provided all your paperwork is in order :
My mom’s lawyer, based in Manila claimed it would take 2 years.
My lawyer friend, based in the province, claimed that according to the judge, it would take 6 months.
Mabilis lang yan. Di aabot ng 1 year yan. Baka 6 months. Kinausap ko na si judge.
It makes sense because there are probably fewer cases in the provinces ergo the judges are less busy.
Is this faster than annulment?
According to my lawyer friend, yes.
Well, what happens next?
I am actually not yet at this stage, but from what I understand, your CENOMAR will get an annotation of “divorced” at the bottom. Pretty much like the koseki tohon in Japan. You can remarry legally again in the Philippines.
For the next post, I will cite all the documents I am in the process of obtaining…
I don’t know if I can answer all of your questions, but because I am in the process of doing this now, I might be able to consult my lawyer back home.
*Featured image taken from gaijinpot.com