There are many reasons why a marriage may fail and the parties involved want to seek a divorce. However, depending on the circumstances, divorce can be a difficult process. More so if one of the parties is a foreigner and if there are children and property involved.
Divorces in Thailand are typically only possible when:
- The marriage is between two Thai nationals
- The marriage is between a Thai national and a foreigner
- The marriage is between two foreigners resulting in an intercultural marriage
As a standard, the marriage should have been reported to the district office. The divorce should also then be filed at the same district office. Let us first look at the two basic options when seeking to divorce in Thailand.
Type of Thai Divorces
Also referred to as an administrative divorce, it is whereby both spouses come to mutually agreed upon terms for the dissolution of the marriage. It is the preferred option as it is straightforward and fast. The couple does not even have to give grounds for divorce. Their mutual agreement and consent for the divorce are enough.
Both parties must present themselves physically at the local district registration office or Amphur where their marriage was reported. The divorce statement must be in writing and signed off by the couple divorcing and two witnesses. The agreement should detail all the terms of the divorce. They also need to provide their original marriage certificate and government-issued identification documents. The process can be completed within a day.
A contested or judicial divorce occurs when there is a lack of agreement by both parties on the dissolution of the marriage. For this process to take place, there must however be legal grounds for divorce according to the law. Such grounds can be found under article 1516 of the Commercial and Civil Code of Thailand. Such grounds can include:
- Adultery by one of the spouses
- Physical or mental abuse to a spouse or their parents
- Mental incapacitation of one of the spouses for more than three years
- Desertion of the marriage for more than one year
- Living separately for more than three years
- Failure to financially support the marriage by one of the spouses
- One of the spouses acquires a communicable and dangerous disease that is incurable and can harm their partner
To process a contested divorce, one of the parties will need to file a petition at the Family Court. This will allow for the other party to be served with papers and a first hearing to be scheduled. The first hearing is to arrange for mediation. if an agreement can be arrived at during mediation, it will be submitted to the court for approval. If no agreement is arrived at, the case will go to trial, with the court being the one to make a judgement. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, so every effort should be made to come to a mutual agreement. Trials can last as long as 6 months with the court required to render judgement within 30 days.
Can a couple divorce if they marry outside of Thailand?
It is possible to divorce in Thailand even if you got married elsewhere, as long as you meet the jurisdictional requirements of the local courts. This means that at least one of the partners in the marriage should be a residing national of Thailand and there be legally valid grounds for the divorce under Thai law. Note that administrative divorces can only be carried out if the couple got married in Thailand or if at least one spouse is a Thai national and the marriage was reported to the district office.
If the marriage was not reported and you intend to undertake an uncontested divorce, you need to start by first reporting the marriage registration at the district office. This will require the marriage certificate to be provided and a translation into the Thai language that has been authorised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm authenticity.
How is child custody determined?
If the couple has had a child, then both get joint custodial rights over the said child. They must both be the biological parents of the child. Issues of custody and child support can be detailed in a divorce agreement if going through an uncontested divorce. With a contested divorce, however, you can either indicate terms in the divorce agreement or go to trial and have the court make the judgement.
What happens when it comes to alimony and property division?
Alimony refers to financial maintenance paid by one ex-spouse to another. It may be requested during divorce proceedings. In an administrative or uncontested divorce, the alimony terms will have been agreed upon by both parties and included in the divorce statement. In the event of a contested or judicial divorce, alimony terms will be arrived at during mediation and included in the settlement agreement. If there is no agreement, the court will issue a judgement after trial.
Do I lose my visa if I divorce?
Yes. Once you are divorced, your marriage visa is no longer valid and you may be compelled to leave the country immediately. In some cases, you may be permitted to remain in Thailand until the expiry of your marriage visa, however, you should make enquiries at the immigration office as soon as possible. Marriage visas are valid for one year at a time but renewable without needing to leave the country. Depending on circumstances, you may be able to switch to another category like a retirement visa. You can also consult with the visa agent that helped process your marriage visa for further guidance.
Uncontested or administrative divorces in Thailand can be fairly straightforward if you meet all the requirements. However, given the binding nature of agreements you sign off on, it is still advisable to consult with an attorney. This especially applies if you are a foreigner or opt for a contested or judicial divorce, you should engage the services of an attorney.
There are likely to be some legal intricacies that are best resolved when you have a professional who understands how divorces in Thailand work. More so when there are children custody, child support, alimony and property division issues involved and you want to be assured that you will arrive at a fair settlement.