International Divorce & Family Law: Thailand
We act regularly for UK clients living in Thailand as well as Thai citizens in the UK and others with a connection to Thailand who wish to divorce. Culturally the legal system in Thailand is markedly different from the legal system in England and Wales. As a result enforcement of divorce settlements and child arrangement orders internationally can be complicated.
Here we discuss aspects of Thai law you should consider if that legal system is likely to play any part in your divorce.
Applying For A Divorce In Thailand
Divorce in Thailand can be contested or uncontested:
- Uncontested Divorce – Sometimes called an administrative divorce it may be applied for whenever the couple mutually agree to divorce. But only marriages that are registered in Thailand can use this procedure. There is no need to show any grounds but both parties must appear before the local register office to formalise the divorce. Couples will ordinarily have entered into a ‘divorce agreement’ before requesting an uncontested divorce. This will deal with finances and child arrangements. Crucially the courts in the UK will only recognise this type of administrative divorce if certain conditions are fulfilled.
- Contested Divorce – One spouse may seek a divorce on several grounds, including 3 years’ separation, a one-year desertion, adultery and failure by one spouse to provide maintenance. A contested divorce is also appropriate where there is disagreement on finances and care of any children or when the marriage has not been registered in Thailand. Matters regarding children of the marriage are settled following a compulsory attendance by both spouses at the Juvenile Observation and Protection Center.
Finances And Thai Divorce
In common with many jurisdictions Thailand has a community property regime. Property acquired during the marriage is shared equally on divorce and property held prior to marriage remains the property of the spouse who originally owned it.
There are some complicating factors when foreign nationals are involved in Thai divorce. Of note are the limitations on foreigners owning Thai property. Restrictions mean that often a Thai spouse will have sole legal ownership of the family home. There are ways for foreign nationals to avoid risking any investment they have made in Thai property, including prenuptial agreements and purchase of property through a Thai company. But legal advice on these matters should always be sought to protect your legal position.
Brookman advises Thai nationals and UK nationals and individuals with other connections to Thailand seeking a UK divorce. Many people want the courts in England and Wales to decide their international divorce because of the perception that the rules here favour the financially weaker spouse.
If you want to ensure UK courts will hear your divorce it is sometimes essential to act before your spouse issues proceedings in Thailand. If Thai proceedings are issued first and the Thai courts have jurisdiction because of a connection you or your spouse have to the country, it’s likely that your divorce will be finalized under the laws of Thailand.
Or call us: +44 (0)20 7430 8470