Section 1501 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code states that there can only be three causes for a marriage to be dissolved: death, divorce or on distinct cases, cancellation of marriage by the court.
With a divorce, Thailand has two types of divorce that parties looking forward to ending their marriage can choose: the less costly and straightforward Uncontested Divorce and the financially and emotionally draining Contested Divorce.
Of the two available options, the uncontested divorce or administrative divorce is rather popular for Thais as it is less confrontational. Divorcing parties only need to:
- Be both physically present.
- Have at least two witnesses to the divorce.
- Register their divorce agreement.
Witnesses may be a Thai or a foreigner but need to be adults with a sound mind to witness.
By registering the divorce agreement, both parties must do so otherwise the party who has had his copy of the agreement registered may petition the court to enforce it.
The same applicable law requires the petitioning party to have grounds on his request to dissolve the marriage. The ground or grounds for divorce should qualify based on the list specifically mentioned in the Thai Civil and Commercial Code:
- One party has a handicap that makes cohabitation as husband and wife permanently impossible.
- One party has an incurable, contagious and serious disease that has the potential to cause injury to the other.
- One party has a serious mental illness for the past three years.
- One party has a failure in providing due support to the other that cohabitation as husband and wife is not possible.
- One party has deserted the other for at least a year.
- One party has caused physical or psychological harm unto the other.
- One party has caused serious insult to the parents of the other.
- If adultery has been committed.
Comparing the two, the contested divorce is far more financially demanding i.e. if a child is involved in the process, the juvenile court may need to be approached.
Initially, the court orders both parties to negotiate on the first hearing and if in case no agreement is reached, only then the trial will proceed as such.
Like other cases, the petitioner holds the burden to prove unto the court on why he shall be granted with a divorce against his spouse.
Soliciting the services of a divorce lawyer is a wise proposition, be it for an uncontested or contested divorce. This will help ensure that the proceedings and documents are fully understood by the involved parties.
Lawyers are also crucial in determining whether the divorce agreement is fully recognized in the countries of both parties if their respective rights and interests are well respected and ensured. These attorneys, especially those who are bilingual, can interpret Thai terms and conditions of the agreement or of the documents and proceedings in general, as English is not utilized in any of these otherwise an interpreter with limited understanding of the law may be hired.