To file for a divorce in Japan, both parties, husband and wife, must comply with the lawsuit. However, if one of the parties dies, the widower may enter a process known as shigo rikon (死後離婚 lit .: “divorce after death”).
Such a process is becoming increasingly common in Japan, especially with women who, being the majority of cases, no longer want to have any more relationship with the parents of the deceased spouse because it is known that the widower has the legal obligation to care for your aged in-laws.
How does posthumous divorce work?
If you want to break ties with your in-laws, you only need to fill out an official form. The form asks for your personal details and personal details of the deceased spouse.
In-laws cannot interfere in this matter, nor do they receive an official notification of the divorce after the fact. And a widow (o) can file this termination report at any time after the death of a wife. There is no waiting period or deadline for submission.
Although this process is not new, it is only today that the Japanese are opting for Shigo Rikon because due to social pressure, it was not customary to opt for this type of procedure.
According to the statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice, the number of posthumous divorces grew only very gradually until 2013 (April 2013 to March 2014), when 2,167 forms were sent.
The number of forms increased modestly to 2,202 in fiscal year 2014, but jumped more than 550 to 2,783 in the following year, and at the end of 2016 it reached 4,032, an increase of almost 50%.
Shigo Rikon and the traditional view
Since Japan has been an agricultural country for much of its history, these traditional views come from villages where agricultural culture had a collectivist tendency.
Until the second half of the 20th century, most of the Japanese population were farmers and ranchers. When the woman got married, she practically stopped being part of her family and became part of her husband's family and vice versa.
When the spouse died, the other surviving party had a legal obligation to take care of their in-laws after the death of the husband / wife.
This legal obligation was even included in the Civil Code of Japan in the late 19th century, after Meiji Restoration. However, this system was revoked after World War II, under the New Constitution.
It was after World War II that it became possible to break marital ties even with the death of a spouse.
Shigo Rikon and the present day
These legal provisions included in pre-war Japan were abolished after World War II. But, the thinking behind them remains embedded in the minds of today's older Japanese.
However, industrialization caused the youth of the time to migrate to more urban areas. As a consequence, a different lifestyle was adopted and directly affecting this traditional view.
It has now become common for women to take jobs outside the home. Many wives continue to work after marriage, as do their husbands. Thus, they help to support the family financially even maintaining the house and educating the children.
This family style where both parents work is very demanding. Therefore, there are not many financial and emotional conditions to support the deceased spouse's in-laws.