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Japanese increasingly planning for divorce as they prepare to wed

 

Kyodo News

Tokyo  /  Sun, February 17, 2019  /  06:00 am
Japanese increasingly planning for divorce as they prepare to wed

In Japan, formalizing the do's and don'ts of married life or how assets are to be split in a breakup has largely been viewed as dooming the marriage to fail, with any discussion of the already taboo topic of divorce a cultural no-no. (Shutterstock/justsolove)

An age-old practice fairly common in many Western countries is now gaining a foothold in Japan, with more and more people insisting on drawing up prenuptial agreements to ensure they are protected should their marriage end badly.

In Japan, formalizing the do's and don'ts of married life or how assets are to be split in a breakup has largely been viewed as dooming the marriage to fail, with any discussion of the already taboo topic of divorce a cultural no-no.

But with as many as 200,000 divorces occurring each year, Japanese couples have increasingly begun to arrange "prenups" to hedge against any doubts they have about their partner and to ensure certain values and details are clearly stated before they take the plunge.

Japanese pop singer Silva, 43, had a prenuptial agreement arranged with her current husband, a man one year her senior, in a notarized deed in 2015. The contract lists 34 conditions, including Silva's requirement that her husband has no more than two outside drinking sessions per week.

Other terms stipulate that the couple must always spend their anniversary together, and that in the event of a divorce, Silva be compensated 1 million yen (about $9,000). Both Silva and her husband have been divorced once before.

"Because things weren't clearly decided (in my previous marriage), during the divorce we ended up arguing a lot," Silva said. "If I was going to consider getting remarried, I also was determined not to let it fail again."

The idea to get legal advice before remarrying came from time Silva spent in the United States, where she lived for three years about 10 years ago. She came to know of people who had arranged prenups and how it had helped them to build a secure relationship, she said.

Read also: Secret to Japan couple's 80 years of marriage: Wife's patience

Silva says when she at first broached the topic with her partner, he was taken aback. It took about 18 months to convince to put their terms down in writing.

Their contract covers a multitude of issues, including work, the sharing of domestic chores and childrearing as well as rules prohibiting cheating and falling into debt. It also sets out terms regarding child custody and child support payments.

One request, which was included by Silva's husband, was that "they contact each other every day about when they will arrive home and promptly return all text messages."

Because both Silva and her husband work, the contract also states that caring for in-laws "will be done voluntarily and never by force."

"You would need a lot of nerve to break this contract," said Silva with a laugh. "We made this together so there is no argument about, 'I said this or didn't say that.' We take mutual responsibility and have become a married couple who pay each other the utmost respect," she said.

Yuriko Tada, an executive board member and notary public with the group "Prenup Kyokai" has, for a fee, arranged prenup agreements for 70 couples since 2014. She says that she has seen a gradual increase in people seeking marriage agreements, mainly among women in their 20s to 40s.

Many women worry about their partners' unfaithfulness or problems with debt, while men who request the service tend to want to protect assets they have accumulated.

A Tokyo housewife in her 30s arranged a prenup several years ago after consulting with Tada about her fiance's money problems. "I'm not sure if my partner changed after the contract was made but it gave me a sense of security rather than doing nothing," she said.

In some cases, after prenuptial negotiations, a couple may come to realize their marriage just is not meant to be because of a difference in values, says Tada. She advises making prenup arrangements to make the best of marriage.

"By facing the realities of marriage, they are able to create an even better relationship as a married couple," Tada said.