Overview on Thailand Divorce

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The increasing number of marriages between Thais and foreigners has inevitably resulted in the escalation of divorce cases in Thailand. Many associate this unfortunate trend to the dissimilarity in culture and language. While there is always a common hope that one’s marriage will weather all trials, there is also equal possibility of the marriage ending in a divorce.

There are two manners of divorcing in Thailand, to wit:

1. The UNCONTESTED or Administrative Divorce; or
2. The CONTESTED or Judicial Divorce.

When Thais are asked on how divorce is done in the country, they will likely say that you
just need to go back to the Local Register (locally called the amphur, amphoe or khet) where
you registered the marriage and ask for a
divorce. This pertains to the UNCONTESTED OR
ADMINISTRATIVE DIVORCE in Thailand. Most marriages between Thais are dissolved
through this method. And why not? It is simple, straightforward and swift. There is no need
for the spouses to have a ground to divorce, just a mutual decision to sever their union, and
their willingness to settle all other issues which go with it.

Mixed or foreign couples may also avail of this remedy. But then, it may help to know that
an uncontested divorce can be availed of only if the marriage is registered in Thailand. This
rule is absolute. Be careful too when having an uncontested divorce as your own country
may not recognize this form of divorce. For this reason, it is very important to consult a
lawyer before you take this route.

It sometimes happens that the spouses are agreeable to ending their marriage, however,
issues on the sharing of property and custody of children get in the way. Expectedly, neither
party will give up his right too easily. With the help of a lawyer in Thailand, the spouses may
enter into a Divorce Agreement where they are free to list their individual rights and duties
after they are granted the divorce. As required by law, the Divorce Agreement must be
registered at the amphur at the time of the divorce.

It is not rare that spouses do not agree to divorce mutually, or only one party has a strong
ground to cause the divorce. It also happens that agreements on child custody and property
sharing cannot be reached, despite all efforts to settle these issues amicably. In these
cases, a CONTESTED OR JUDICIAL DIVORCE is the proper remedy.

Coming to court for a divorce may be costly, lengthy and tedious. However, it is a definite
means of affording both parties the equal opportunity to be heard in court on their stand
on the marriage and the divorce. It is inevitable for the judge to require the petitioning
party to prove the chosen ground for divorce. It is likewise imperative for the court to
hear the couple’s issues on their children and their property. If to that point the parties
cannot settle these two important issues amicably, the court steps in and decides for them.

Contested divorce is generally available to parties who have registered their marriage in
Thailand. However, unlike in uncontested divorce, the court may observe some exceptions
to the general rule. Parties who have not registered their marriage in Thailand may petition
the courts to recognize their case if:

1. At least one party has been working in Thailand for a reasonable length of time and
has a valid Work Permit;
2. At least one party is a Permanent Resident in Thailand;
3. One party is a Thai national.

At the same time as the filing of the petition for cognizance of the case, the petitioning party
must likewise be ready to prove at least one ground for divorce, as enumerated under Thai
laws. Grounds for divorce in the country of the foreign petitioner do not count. As the party
has submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Thai courts, it follows that he is ready to
present his case following the law of the land.

Rebecca Ponce works as Legal Advisor for Siam Legal International. She is a licensed lawyer in the Philippines. Her field of specialization is foreign divorce, marriage in Thailand, divorce in Thailand and other concerns related to family laws.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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