Integrity Legal

30th September 2009

Divorce in Thailand

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Few people wish to discuss what will happen should a marriage breakdown, but unfortunately divorce is an issue that many people confront at least once in their lifetime. With this in mind, those living in Thailand researching the issue may be surprised to learn that divorce in Thailand can be quite different when compared against divorce procedures in common law countries.

One of the major differences between divorce procedure in Thailand and divorce procedure in the United States of America is the presence of an Amphur office. The Amphur office is the civil registrar for vital information pertaining to the citizens and permanent residents of Thailand as well as foreign visitors in the Kingdom. Amphur officers are empowered with the authority to execute legally binding marriages, change names, record, births, record divorces, as well as other functions. In Thailand marriage registration usually involves a trip to the Amphur’s office to have the marriage legalized. In many divorce cases in Thailand, the converse is true for the dissolution of a marriage. Provided that there are no major disagreements between the parties, a sort of “no contest” divorce can be easily granted at the local Amphur office. However,  should the parties have any type of disagreement, then a protracted divorce proceeding must occur in the Thai court system.

An immediate issue surrounding the issuance of an Amphur divorce is: will the United States recognize the divorce as binding? Quite simply: Yes. A divorce registered at an Amphur office is considered legally binding for US purposes. This is particularly important in K1 visa cases, as a common question from prospective US Citizen petitioners is: “what do they mean my Thai fiancee must be legally free to marry?” This means that they need to be single, divorced,  or their prior spouse must be deceased. The United States government considers a Thai Divorce, granted in Thailand, valid.

Another issue ancillary to Thai divorce is that of a prenuptial agreement. Under Thai law, a prenuptial agreement must be recorded contemporaneously along with the recording of the Thai marriage. Once properly recorded, the prenuptial agreement will be the touchstone for dividing marital assets in Thailand.

In cases where a Thai divorce cannot be executed directly through the Amphur office it may be necessary to file the divorce action in the Thai courts and upon final judgment of dissolution, the couple must present the judgment to the Amphur for registration.

Another issue to think of when contemplating a Thai divorce is the issue of how one’s property will be divided post -divorce pursuant to a Thai will. For the sake of avoiding prolonged probate, it may be wise to change ones Thai will in tandem with the divorce registration.


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