Child Custody in Thailand

A Child Custody case involves the legal rights and duties of parents to care for their children. The parents’ rights and duties are known as parental power under Thai law.

In Thailand, the mother has sole custody of a child born out of wedlock unless the father takes action to legitimize the child.

Sole Custody

As in many western countries, child custody in Thailand is divided into 2 primary forms. The first is sole custody, whereby parental rights and responsibilities are granted to one parent and they will make all decisions concerning the child. The second is joint custody, wherein both parents share equal rights and responsibilities, allowing for a cooperative approach in the raising of children.

Fathers seeking father’s rights in Thailand must first register a legitimation of the child. This will allow the father to petition for partial or sole custody of the child if he can demonstrate that he is the legal parent.

Family Court judges who rule on these cases are inherently child-centric, and always put the best interests of the child at the forefront of their deliberations. They will consider factors like the child’s preference, the child’s relationship with each parent, and whether the home environment is emotionally and physically stable. They will also evaluate each parent’s parenting skills, history of abuse or neglect and other relevant circumstances.

Joint Custody

In Thailand, a married couple can enter into an agreement regarding custody. This includes financial support of the child as well. This is commonly referred to as parental power. This agreement is registered with the district office in the same manner as divorce agreements are.

However, a father of a child born out-of-wedlock must petition for legitimation before the court will consider partial or full custody rights to him. This is important because merely being the biological father does not automatically qualify him for these rights.

In general, the Thai court will base its determination in a custody case on what is in the best interest of the child. This is a common standard that is used in most western jurisdictions. This may include the ability of the parents to care for the child as well as how their behavior will affect the child in the future. If it is found that one parent cannot meet these obligations, the judge will consider appointing a third party to care for the child.

Shared Custody

Custody of a child can either be sole (where the mother has full custody) or joint (where both parents share decision making and live with the child). Thailand tends to favor the idea of shared custody, as it believes that a strong bond between children and their parents will result in a more positive outcome for the child.

Interestingly enough, fathers in Thailand who wish to obtain custody rights must petition to establish legal paternity of the child. This is far different from simply being the biological father of the child, and it often takes years to obtain these rights.

One option is to work with a neutral mediator who can help the parties reach an agreement on child custody and contact. This may help avoid a court battle that is costly and emotionally stressful for both parties. A mediator can also assist in determining an appropriate financial arrangement for the payment of support.


If a couple in Thailand cannot agree on custody they may find it more beneficial for the child to remain with a third person like an aunt or family member. This is called guardianship. The Court will decide on this and make a final judgment as to the best interest of the child.

In cases of divorce the mother will have full parental powers over the child unless she has registered the father as a legal father with his local district office and the father agrees to this. Otherwise the father will not have any rights.

A court could also grant a guardian to an ex-spouse who does not have any lawful parental rights or to an unmarried couple. A guardian is a non-parent who is granted the authority by a Court to care for and manage the affairs of a minor (called a ward) but has limited power over the ward. He or she must regularly provide reports to the Court.

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