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Decree orders pensions split in all divorce cases

Date Posted: 2007-05-02

Wives now receive 50% of a husband’s pension under a new law that went into effect last month.

The law conceived in 2004 mandates a 50-50 division of family assets, including the husband’s pension. In its first weeks, the change has set off a ripple of complaints and inquiries to the Okinawa Social Insurance Office. The office handled only 27 queries in March, but saw the number jump to more than 200 in April.

An official says the 70% increase in counseling to wives came as a surprise, speculating many had been planning to divorce, but held off until the new law came into effect. Some 82% of the calls that poured in between April 2nd and 13th were from wives asking about how they could get the husband’s pension money. “I’m thinking of divorcing my husband. How much can I get?” was a common question, as was “How is the process done” and “What papers do I need?”

Husbands are responding angrily to the new law. “She’s not been working at all, so I shouldn’t divide my pension money to her. Since she’s divorcing me, why should I give my money to her?” the men ask. The court response is “even if your wife was a housewife, she gets half the pension money.” The government response does note, though, that if a wife was working, her assets figure into the 50-50 split at divorce.

There were 3,902 divorces in 2001, according to Okinawa government figures, but that number dropped to 3,667 last year. Officials say they suspect the drop was because “wives are now waiting until the husband becomes eligible for retirement before they file for divorce, so they get half the pension money.”

A typical pension for someone with 40 years work is ¥100,883 monthly. That works out to a ¥50,441 payment to each partner in a divorce. In Okinawa, the numbers are somewhat less, because income is lower here. An official says each divorced partner would get about ¥37,500 each month.

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