Child Custody issues typically arise when a couple with children is in the process of a legal separation or divorce and Thailand's Civil and Commercial Code addresses custody rights under the concept of "parental power".
Child custody can become an issue for an unmarried couple as well as for any child born outside of a legal marriage. Child custody can be obtained in Thailand in two ways:
For a married couple living in Thailand, if a divorce is by mutual consent (an uncontested or administrative divorce) the couple can agree to share custody of a child. This agreement can also deal with child support and visitation rights.
In order for the agreement to be valid it must be signed by two witnesses and registered at a district office when the divorce is registered.
For an unmarried couple having a child born outside of a legal marriage, the mother has the right to sole custody over the child. For the father to be considered as having custody rights he must first be registered as the child's legitimate father.
The father has to register a legitimization of the child with his local district office, and the child's mother must consent to the legitimation. If the mother agrees, then the father is allowed either joint or sole custody depending on the agreement made between the parents.
Child custody in Thailand can also be decided by the courts. For a married couple, if their divorce is granted by the court (a contested divorce), the judge in the case decides which parent should be granted custody. The judge can also choose to appoint a third person as the child's guardian if it would be in the best interests of the child.
The judge can also take away custody rights if a parent becomes incompetent, in cases of misconduct, or if the parent abuses their parental powers. The public prosecutor or the parent not having custody rights can file a petition to change the child custody arrangements at any time.
In the case of an unmarried couple having a child born outside of a legal marriage, if the father files for the legitimation of the child, he can petition for custody at the same time as filing the legitimation case. The court will make a determination as to whether it is suitable for the father to have partial or sole custody of the child.
As you can plainly see child custody in Thailand can get rather technical and require legal expertise in Family Law. Juslaws & Consult has a lot of experience dealing with child custody cases and can be of great service to its clients. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information.