Divorce in Thailand – Explained.
As in many European law systems, Thai law foresees two ways to terminate a marriage. It can be done either with mutual consent or based on one of the legal grounds.
Contested divorce in Thailand
One can choose a contested divorce when one or both spouses do not agree on all aspects of the separation (e.g. custody rights or marital property) or is not willing to divorce.
The main grounds to file for contested divorce are:
- A 3-year period of voluntary separation
- One spouse has deserted the other for over one year
- The husband has taken another woman as his wife
- The wife has committed adultery
- One spouse is guilty of misconduct (criminal or otherwise)
- One spouse has physically or mentally harmed the other
- Lack of maintenance and support by a spouse
- One spouse has seriously insulted the other spouse or his/her ascendants
- One spouse has had incurable insanity for at least three years
- One spouse has disappeared for more than three years
- One spouse has broken the bond of good behaviour
- One spouse has been has been imprisoned for more than a year
- One spouse has an incurable, communicable and dangerous disease
- One spouse has a physical disadvantage so as to be unable to cohabit as husband and wife
Do note that this procedure tends to be very expensive and time-consuming since it requires you to go to court.
Couples that did not register their marriage in Thailand also have to get divorced under this regime because an uncontested divorce will in some countries not be recognised, with all the consequences thereof. The contested divorce however is not open to all foreigners: or one of the spouses is Thai, or one has been residing or working in Thailand for a reasonable amount of time.
Uncontested divorce in Thailand
Uncontested divorce (administrative divorce) on the other hand is much cheaper and the procedure is much more simple. The married couple does not have to give a reason for why they want to separate. They just both have to be physically present at the Amphur (local district) to express their mutual wish to end the marriage. In most cases Thai people will opt for the uncontested divorce and settle all other issues behind closed doors (in a divorce agreement). As mentioned above, the uncontested divorce is not an option if the marriage was registered not in Thailand.
The local office where the divorce is filed may be different from where the marriage is registered. However, the required documents will differ:
- If you get divorced at same Amphur as where the marriage is registered, you have to take your passport/ID and marriage certificate with you. Thai people also have to present the House Registration Certificate
- If you get divorced at a different Amphur, foreigners have to be able to also present a legalised copy of their international passport. Once the divorce is final, the Amphur will issue a divorce certificate. Two things have to be taken into account:
- For the foreign spouse(s): this document being in Thai, it has to be translated into English and legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before it can be registered at the Embassy
- For the Thai spouse: the Amphur of where your birth was registered, has to be informed of the divorce
Divorce agreements in Thailand
A couple that wants to get separated, might want to formalise the aspects that they agree on. A divorce agreement (or ‘settlement agreement’) can contain provisions regarding child custody, marital property, alimony and/or child support. It has to be signed in the presence of two witnesses and registered at the Amphur.