Nuts and bolts of divorce in Thailand
WHILE one has to be at least 17 years old to register a marriage in Thailand, similar to the rest of the world this union can only end with death or divorce but in this country the latter can also be by court order, Samart Swatdipocha, a lawyer and owner of Samart Law Company said recently.
Under the Thai law there are ten grounds to file for a divorce with one being desertion for over a year.
“It could also be because the husband has a new wife or upgraded the status of another woman to the level of wife or the wife has a lover – can file for divorce on these grounds.
“Yet another is that either the husband or wife is physically disabled and cannot live together.”
Should one’s spouse verbally abuse one’s parents that can open the door for a divorce.
“Like the husband letting out a row of expletives at his mother-in-law or the wife rebuking her father-in-law, this is not acceptable under Thai law.”
Yet again should the couple live separately for three years or more which could be because one of them is sick or mentally disturbed then the other spouse may file for a divorce.
However Mr Samart added that when entering a divorce procedure under these ten grounds, the judge has to consider and approve it for this parting of ways to take place.
“It doesn’t take long, not more than six months.”
Of course a divorce affects the children from this marriage as well as marital assets. Regarding the latter, this is to be divided equally upon dissolution of marriage.
“But according to Thai law, the woman gets the children, both boys and girls. She takes care of them and the man only gets their custody if the woman is unable to do so.
“The man does of course according to the law have visitation rights, similar to other countries like India.
“An agreement has to be reached how frequently this is to be, perhaps four to five times or ten times a year or even every week. It depends on what has been agreed upon.
“If they can’t reach an agreement then the judge will decide based on good reason.”
Children here do not have the right to choose which parent they would rather live with until they are 20 years of age and actually by that time they have grown up and generally choose to live on their own and not with either parent.
However Mr Samart added that under certain circumstances when the children are a little mature, approximately 15 years of age, they could ask the court to live with the father.
“The husband does have the right to fight for the children in court, and the judge will listen to his reasons.
“The woman has the first right but the man has the right to fight.
“However in Thailand unless it’s high-society folk or prominent families, men don’t take care of their children, it’s the woman’s duty to do so.
“Men here mostly don’t bother at all, they go and get a new wife.
“But they have to continue paying for the children and how much depends on their financial position.
“Mostly men pay, but the court will decide how much.”
Should the children be from a mixed marriage, with one spouse being from another country, they have the right to choose which nationality they want to uphold. While initially this could be Thai it could be changed later to that of their father or mother from another country.
“A foreign man has the right to file a case in court for the custody of his children.
“But if the Thai mother stakes her claim and says she is able to take care of them then they would have to stay with her.”
However Mr Samart said Muslims in Thailand, particularly in three to four southernmost provinces, file for divorce at Muslim family court but all other religions follow Thai legal procedures.
Should a mixed marriage be registered in Thailand then Thai law applies but if it is registered in another country then that country’s laws take effect.
“If they were married abroad they can divorce in Thailand but marital properties have to be divided according to that country’s laws. However assets purchased in Thailand can be divided by Thai law.”
TOP: A moving image highlighting the pain children suffer when a divorce takes place. Photo: Tony Guyton (CC-by-2.0)
INSET: Mr Samart says men have the right to fight for the custody of their children.
By Nina Suebsukcharoen