Japanese govt eyes fully online divorce mediation settlements

The government will submit a bill to the ordinary Diet session as soon as early March that will likely make it possible for the entire divorce mediation process to be conducted via web conferencing.

The bill, which is set to amend a law that governs divorce cases, will allow the intentions of both parties to be confirmed online, with no need for couples to appear before a family court.

The move is aimed at making it easier for people to separate during the spread of the novel coronavirus virus, and help reduce the emotional stress suffered by victims of domestic violence.

Generally, divorces in Japan are mediated by a committee comprising judges and other individuals. Discussions on such issues as child-rearing expenses and parental authority take place at a family court, often over several sittings. If the parties can agree to terms, the committee can confirm the desire of both sides to divorce and conclude the mediation.

Presently, most divorce-settlement procedures can be settled online, but official confirmation of each party’s intention to separate must be carried out face-to-face.

The thinking behind the present situation runs thus: Divorce is an important decision that deeply affects personal status. Accordingly, the intentions of the parties involved must be confirmed in person.

With the spread of the coronavirus, however, face-to-face meetings have been avoided and the use of web conferencing has increased, leading the government to consider revising the law.

About 16,000 to 22,000 divorces have been settled through mediation in each of the last five years, according to Supreme Court statistics for the past five years.