Get a prenup!

OK, you might actually like your Japanese boyfriend or girlfriend and you might not want to dump them.

But given that divorce is on the rise in Japan and elsewhere, it’s common sense to protect yourself. Never mind assets and what not. What’s a few bucks here and there? If that were all that was at stake, the protection of a pre-nuptial agreement would not make up for the ill-will it would cause.

But sometimes there’s more than money involved, sometimes there are children. In that case, before you get married, you should prepare for a divorce. Why? Because custody law in Japan is not reasonable. In fact it’s insane, so a pre-nuptial agreement is essential to ensure that in the event of  a divorce, both parents have access to the children. But there is a serious snag: Japanese law does not recognize agreements mentioning child custody, therefore the agreement must be about other aspects, e.g. assets, and contingent on other situations (e.g. who moved out first).

In the case of a Japanese/non Japanese couple, you absolutely need expert help in drafting a pre-nup. Foreign law offices in Japan, such as Langley Esquire, have exactly the expertise required. I don’t want to appear to be endorsing any particular lawyer or law office, so you should ask your embassy for a list of lawyers.

I do have a few caveats however. Make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer. The first lawyer I saw was terrible. She was Japanese and very experienced but she kept telling me what to do, she was being patronizing, and the feeling I got was that she sided with my ex-wife! Without over-generalizing, Japanese lawyers (and doctors and teachers) all assume the mantle of authority and they tell their clients what to do. In the Western world, our attitude is that doctors and lawyers are expensive expert consultants who explain what options are available and what their consequences are, and who then leave the actual decision up to their clients. Either get a foreign lawyer working in Japan, or a Japanese lawyer working in your home country. But get a lawyer who understands Japanese family law.

It’ll be expensive. Each case is different, each pre-nup must be custom tailored for each couple, and there are no one-size-fits-all templates. But it’s worth it.

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