When a couple is divorcing or decided to live separately, and there are children born from the marriage, or unmarried couple with children born out of marriage, issue on child custody arises – who will take the custody of the child, who will pay the financial support, and what are each parent’s responsibilities in the shared child-raising.
As per the Civil and Commercial Law of Thailand, rights of custody or parental power is exercised by the father, the mother, or a third person who is a legal guardian of the child until the child reaches the legal age (20 years old). A person exercising parental power has the right as follows:
- To determine the child’s place of residence
- To discipline the child reasonably
- To require the child to work, consistent with his or her abilities and status
- To demand the return of the child from someone else, including another parent who does not have custody rights and unlawfully detains the child
- To manage the property of the child with the restriction that selling, mortgaging, and exchange the property of the minor child must obtain the approval of the court
How to obtain the child custody?
- By the mutual consent of the parties
If the child is a product of married parents
If the parents of the child are married and are divorcing, parents of the child can enter into a divorce agreement concerning how the custody shall be shared between them. In addition, the agreement can also include the visitation of the child and the financial support for the child. However, in order for the agreement on the child custody to be valid, it has to be signed by two witnesses and registered with the district office at the time of registering the divorce.
What if the child is illegitimate?
If the parents of the child are unmarried and the child has been born out of the marriage, the mother of the child only has the sole custody over the child.
The father could only exercise custody rights over the child in the event that the child has been registered as a legitimate child of the father. To legitimize a child, the father has to register a legitimation of the child in Thailand with the local district office.
If the mother and the child consent to such legitimation, then the registration allows the father to have the joint custody or sole custody over the child upon the agreement between the father and the mother of the child.
- By the decision of the court
Child custody in Thailand for a married spouse
If divorce is granted by the court’s judgment (contested divorce), the judge in the divorce case will decide who should be granted the child custody; otherwise, the judge can appoint a third person as a guardian in place of parents if necessary as the welfare and interest of the child is of highest priority.
If the parent who was granted the rights of custody has been proven as incompetent, misconduct, abusing his/her parental power, the judge may take away the parental power, which may happen even after the divorce. In the exercise of abusive parental power, the parent without custody or the public prosecutor on the child’s behalf can file a petition to change the custody at any time.
Child custody in Thailand for an unmarried couple
If the father of the child born out of the marriage files a legitimation of child in Thailand, the custody issue can be petitioned together with the legitimation case. The court in the same case will decide whether the father is suitable to exercise the partial or whole custody over the child.
See also Child Custodial Rights in Thailand.