There are two types of divorce in Thailand, administrative and court divorces. Generally speaking, if either you or your spouse currently resides in Thailand you may be able to file for a divorce in Thailand courts provided there are lawful "grounds" (reasons) for the divorce. If your marriage was originally registered in one of the Thailand district offices and both you and your spouse consent to the divorce, then the process is administrative and relatively simple compared to a court divorce.
Thailand Consensual Divorce or Uncontested Divorce
If you registered your marriage at a Thailand local district office (Khet or Amphur) you and your spouse may register for an administrative Thailand divorce. Registering an administrative divorce at the local district office requires that you and your spouse do not have any disagreements over child custody or property. If there are assets to be divided or issues regarding custody of children, then the divorcing spouses can negotiate a settlement agreement for the divorce and this should be registered at the same time as the administrative divorce is registered.
An administrative divorce is also referred to as a “consensual” or “uncontested” divorce. However these terms are not totally accurate because, it is possible to have a consensual divorce in a Thailand Court (subject to negotiation and settlement agreement). Additionally, an uncontested divorce in other jurisdictions are often handled within the Court system and signed by a judge. In Thailand, an administrative divorce does not involve a Court or a judge.
What if my spouse does not consent to a divorce?
If your wife or husband does not agree to a divorce, or if you can agree to divorce but have disputes regarding financial issues, division of asserts or child custody or other issues, then a divorce may be filed with the Thai Court (provided that other requirements are met). Grounds for divorce must be proven to the satisfaction of the court and you normally must make a personal appearance in the court. In Thailand grounds for divorce include:
* A 3 year period of 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 been imprisoned for more than one year
* One spouse has physically or mentally harmed the other
* Lack of marital support
* One spouse has had incurable insanity for at least 3 years
* One spouse has broken the bond of good behavior
* One spouse has an incurable communicable disease
* One spouse has a physical disability so as to be unable to cohabitate as husband and wife.
Can spouses living outside of Thailand file for a divorce in Thai Court?
If the divorce is administrative, both parties will still need to appear at the District office to register the divorce. A contested divorce however requires a judgment from the Court. If you are now living abroad, the Thai Court may, potentially, still have jurisdiction over a divorce action under some circumstances. Therefore an attorney may still be able to file a divorce complaint on your behalf although you may not currently be located in Thailand. However, normally a plaintiff (the spouse who files the divorce complaint) must appear in person at least one time during the court process to provide testimony that establishes the grounds for the divorce.
If you reside in Thailand but your spouse is not present or will not return to Thailand for the divorce process, you may still be able to proceed provided that he or she has received adequate notice of the divorce action. Service must be applied through a Thai court. However, if your spouse is not in Thailand and substitute service, (such as by publication) may be allowed in certain circumstances. If you spouse does not respond to a lawful service from the court, the divorce case may proceed by default.
How are property and outstanding debts divided in the event of divorce?
Thailand is a "Community Property" jurisdiction. When a couple divorce in Thailand, separate property ("sin suan tua"), namely assets and property acquired before marriage, generally remains the property of the original owner. Assets and property acquired during marriage are commonly considered community property ("Sapsin somrot") with both spouses having equal ownership rights. The rules regarding division of property are complex and the Thai Court will divide the property according to the law and individual facts of the case.
However, in a negotiated settlement divorcing spouses may alter their division of property normally required by the law if the divorcing couple chooses a different division of assets. Also, prenuptial agreements can alter the distribution of property during a divorce.
Debts incurred during the marriage, whether they are household, medical, or educational, are normally the responsibility of both parties.
Does Thailand allow “No-Fault” divorce?
In one sense, Thailand does allow for “no-fault” divorce: When the divorce is consensual and registered in an administrative process at one of Thailand’s District offices.
However, not all marriages are able to be ended through the administrative process. In general, only those married couples who originally registered their marriages in Thailand may also divorce through the administrative process at District offices.
For marriages that do not qualify for the administrative divorce process, lawful ground for divorce must be proven to the Thai courts for a divorce to be granted. Therefore, in this sense, Thailand courts do not allow for “No-Fault” divorce.
What if I have a prenuptial agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are allowed in Thailand provided they meet the procedural and substantive requirements of Thai law. A properly executed prenuptial agreement is usually considered a valid legal agreement in other international jurisdictions that accord with basic principle of fairness and due process. Procedural requirements for prenuptial agreements may be stricter in Western Common Law jurisdictions. On the other hand, many western jurisdictions have fewer requirements for approving prenuptial agreements. Thailand has its own requirements for registering a prenuptial agreement at the time of marriage. If your marriage and prenuptial agreements were executed or registered in another nation a Thai Court will normally accept the agreement if it adheres to requirements of the foreign law.
Normally pursuant to the legal principle of "Comity" Thai divorces are accepted by most if not all developed nations. (Fundamentalist Muslim nations, however, may have different requirements pursuant to Sharia law.)
Thailand Divorce: Protecting Assets