Recognition of Foreign Divorce in Thailand for US Citizens
There is a great number of Americans married to foreigners. As such, there are also numerous divorces applied for and granted to Americans in foreign jurisdictions.
There is no legal obligation for states to recognize foreign judgments of divorce issued by other countries. However, most states in the US recognize divorces granted to its citizens by foreign countries because of comity. Comity is a principle between states of practicing mutual respect for each other’s laws and legal processes.
Generally, US courts will recognize and enforce a foreign divorce only if both spouses received proper notice of the divorce proceeding through proper service of process. Thus, if the spouses are living in separate countries and the divorce is filed in a foreign state, the other party should be served adequate notice so as to allow him or her to respond to the petition. Take note that different countries have different rules on the service of processes. These rules must be properly complied with in order for the service to be considered sufficient.
Divorce in Thailand
Thailand has two forms of divorce: Uncontested or Administrative Divorce and Contested or Judicial Divorce.
Uncontested divorce in Thailand is the equivalent of mutual or no-fault divorce in other states. This divorce necessitates the presence of the spouses before the divorce can be granted to them. No proxy or representative shall be entertained as the parties themselves are required to express their consent to the divorce before the administrative officer. By the requirement of personal appearance, the parties are definitely given notice of the procedure.
In a contested divorce in Thailand, the process is usually started by the aggrieved party. He or she comes to court, ready to prove at least one ground for divorce. The court will not proceed to hear the case unless the erring spouse is given proper notice of the proceedings. This is mandatory so the courts may have jurisdiction over the case, and for the erring party to be given the opportunity to respond to the petition. The erring party may choose not to answer the allegations or express his consent to the divorce. Whatever the choice may be, what matters is that the opportunity to answer was given before hearings on the petition starts.
Divorce in Thailand will also involve the determination of related issues like child custody, child support, spousal alimony, and marital property distribution. Before an uncontested or contested divorce is decreed, the above issues must have been settled by the parties themselves or determined by the court. Since these issues will bind the parties even after the divorce is granted, there is more reason why the respondent needs to be served with the petition.
If proper service of processes had been complied with, and this fact is proven before US courts, there is food reason to believe that the foreign judgment of divorce shall be recognized by the United States.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Siriporn, an Attorney-at-Law in Siam Legal, has practiced for over 4 years in the area of family law. She earned her Law degree at Thammasat University and has been admitted to the bar in 2003 by the Thailand Bar Association. In 2004, she became a member of Lawyers Council Thailand, a professional legal organization. She studied abroad at University of California Riverside. She can speak 3 languages: English, Thai, and Chinese. Presently, she's handling the family law section at Siam Legal International.