Thai Marriage and Divorce
There are two kinds of marriage in Thailand:
Most couples do both. However, a ceremonial marriage is not recognized by the Thai government or family courts. Only the registered marriage is recognized. (Sections 1457 and 1458 of the Thailand Civil and Commercial Code)
Thailand family court also does NOT recognize a "common law" or "de facto" marriage, either, unlike many other countries which recognize a common law marriage after a certain number of years of cohabitation. When an otherwise common law couple splits, it is up to them to privately settle any and all matters of property, custody of children, and future support payments.
Prenuptial agreements are recognized in Thailand for registered marriages.
A foreigner can get a non-immigrant O visa based on marriage only if it is a registered marriage. A ceremonial marriage is not recognized. (I continue to get this inquiry ...)
Before 1997, it was very common for Thais to not register their marriage because Thai law was chauvenistic in that a Thai wife lost her rights to purchase land and other kinds property except with her husband (but the husband didn't have this limitation), and purchasing property created a lot of paperwork hassles. Thus, a very high percentage of Thai females refused to register their marriage. However, with the 1997 constitution which gave females equal rights, the old laws were superceded, though in many places the old laws were still enforced unless and until the females pressed the matter via their lawyers. After about 10 years of that, there weren't many places left which didn't honor equal rights.
It seems that about 99% of marriages between a Thai national and a foreigner involve a foreign man in a relationship with a Thai lady, but this article also applies to a foreign female in a relationship with a Thai male.
Registering a Marriage
Registering a marriage is fairly simple. You go down to the district office (amphur) where your Thai girlfriend / fiancee's records are located, which is the district of her registered address which names her amphur within the address.
The foreigner will need a "freedom to marry" certificate from his embassy which certifies that the foreigner is single and free to marry, and this document will need to be translated into Thai with the translation certified by the Foreign Ministry. When doing any translation or original Thai document, be sure that your name is spelled the exact same way in the Thai script everywhere in Thailand, e.g., on work permit.
The amphur will print two copies of the marriage certificate, one to be kept by each partner.
Most countries in the world recognize a marriage in Thailand, so that you don't need to get married again in your home country for any purposes.
You can divorce at any amphur office in Thailand, and do not need to go back to the office where you married or where your wife's records are kept.
Before you go, you should agree on how to split all assets, custody rights for any children, and any alimony. This is required to be spelled out clearly on the form, so it's best to have this articulated in advance.
If you cannot agree between the two of you, then you will need to go to family court.
If you do not agree to even divorce, then an aggrieved party can apply for a divorce in family court, on the basis of adultery, abandonment, serious mistreatment, and various other causes. This is similar to the law in most western countries.
You must be present in Thailand to divorce in Thailand.
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