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Getting a Divorce in Thailand

Transcript of the above video:

This video is sort of a brief overview of the issue of divorce here in Thailand which isn’t exactly the most fun topic to discuss. For information about marriage registration in Thailand, I recommend that you check out the video with that specific title which is also here on our channel.

With respect to divorce in Thailand, Thailand has a slightly different system with respect to divorce and again I am not a Thai attorney, we have Thai attorneys in the office; I simply sometimes act as a go-between between the Thai attorneys and the clients themselves, again, I’m just Managing Director. Most of the Thai attorneys handle these matters with our foreign clients directly. But that being said, I have been around and I have seen the way that the divorce system works here.

There’s essentially 2 ways to look at divorce in Thailand and there’s sort of if you were looking at it as a road, there’s sort of a fork in the road and the couple makes a decision which way to go at that fork. The first one is what is called a non-contested divorce. In the United States, non contested divorces are quite common and they’re fairly frequent here in Thailand as well. The thing to keep in mind, in the United states, and I am coming from that perspective, and I believe it is fairly similar in most of the commonwealth jurisdictions, common-law jurisdictions, to get a divorce is going to require some sort of appearance in court and the judge is going to have to sign off on the divorce, basically a dissolution of marriage. In Thailand, it’s slightly different and again as I have mentioned in the marriage registration video on here, Thailand is pure civil law system so there is a network of what are called civil registrars in Thailand, and these civil registrars perform a lot of functions that maybe in the common law system were more often performed by say judges or justices of the peace. Marriage and divorce registration is 2 of these functions that you know perhaps a Westerner here for the first time would sort of think, “oh maybe a justice of the peace would do that”, No, the civil registrars tend to do marriage registration and divorce registration ultimately. But with respect to non-contested divorces again, you can just go into the civil registrar, the couple can just go in to the civil registrar, and say, hey look, it’s not working out, we’d like to go ahead and dissolve this marriage and that can be done probably in an afternoon, it isn’t 2 Thai individuals. If it’s a Thai and a foreigner, it may require some further documentation there may need to be legalized, notarized by that foreigner’s embassy and then legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; it all depends on circumstance, I’m not going to get into specifics with respect to this. But again there is further information about legalization, notarization in another video on this channel. Moving forward, assuming there’s a non-contested divorce, its 2 individuals they have their documentation that can pretty well be effected like I said fairly quickly by the civil registrar.

With respect to contested divorce, this is where it becomes a little bit more tricky. In Thailand, with respect to contested divorce, the system for contested divorce, so one or both of the parties do not wish to just quickly dissolve the marriage. In these cases, it usually involves either division of marital assets, or custody of any children and when you see these cases come before the Thai courts I am often reminded of the old days in many American jurisdictions of what was called “fault divorce” where it really is almost like a law suit brought between, for lack of a better term “two business partners”, and there is sort of an element of trying to lay blame or find fault with one of the parties with respect of trying to decide how to divide say marital assets or custody of children.  The Thai courts are extremely diligent, frankly, in their efforts to ascertain what the most fair solution is pursuant to the law and what the most fair solution is in a given individual case. One thing that’s very interesting under Thai law, and I’m not going to spin off into a tangent on this, and I’ve discussed briefly notions of equity also on this channel and how there’s very different sort of approach to that under the legal system in Thailand. With respect to at least family matters, it’s generally been my observation that the judges here in Thailand are looking for the best decision based on the individual facts and the individual case; they’re not looking at setting precedent, they’re not looking into  the long term, they’re looking at that one case so what may be a decision that was felt to be a fair decision in one case may in another case, a judge may decide “No, that’s not going to work in this specific set of circumstances”.  As you can imagine, this can lead to a fairly, I won’t say uncertain, but it’s definitely more difficult to predict outcomes in family law cases where we have a contested divorce matter.  For this reason, if it’s possible through some sort of mediation or arbitration,  binding or non binding, it may behoove a given couple to undertake such a mediation to try and figure out what everyone can live with rather than litigate the matter in court which can cost a great deal of money and can also cause a great deal of consternation, not only for each of the partners involved in the marriage but also for any children that may or may not be involved or family members or friends may be close to the couple. So with respect to divorce, especially contested divorce, it’s probably wise to seriously think about undertaking such action prior to filing any sort of case and as always, it is definitely a good idea to discuss such matters with an attorney in order to ascertain one’s options and secondly, where things are, how one can be adversely affected by undertaking protracted litigation contested divorce in Thailand. So that being said, again, non-contested divorce is fairly straight forward, contested divorce, that can be a fairly, kind of a quagmire in a lot of ways, under certain circumstances depending on what the individuals want to happen versus what ultimately will happen once a decision is made.