In Thailand child custody cases are usually decided by family court. Judges will take into account what is in the best interests of the child.
For unmarried couples, the mother has sole custody of children unless the father registers a legitimation of his child with local district offices.This is because a child born out of wedlock is only recognized as the legitimate child of the birth mother.Parental PowerParents have the right and duty to care for their child and provide food, shelter, clothing and education. This parental power is known as “custody” in Thai law (section 1686 CCCT).If married, the father and mother share custody equally. This can be by agreement or a decision of the Court. For unmarried couples, the mother holds full custody by default. Fathers can have a say in the custody of their children by filing for “legitimation” of the child.Sometimes, one parent will leave their child with a family member to look after them for a period of time. While it is not a good idea, this does not give the person who has taken the child custody rights. A guardian can be appointed by a Court and this is normally a parent. It is also possible for the Court to terminate a parent’s parental rights. This is an extremely difficult process and requires very strong evidence.Divorce by Mutual ConsentIn Thailand family courts place the best interests of children above all other concerns and closely examine child development issues with social worker reports. Mothers and fathers who are both able to care for the children equally are usually granted joint custody.If a father of a child born out of wedlock wants to gain legal paternity rights in Thailand he must file an action for the legitimation of his child at the local district office. If he does not take such action his fatherhood will never be legally recognized even if his name appears on the child’s birth certificate.If a parent residing outside Thailand fails to perform child support payment duties he/she may be reported to the Public Child Support Office by the custodial spouse. The Office will investigate the matter and if the debt is outstanding, the custodial spouse can apply to the legal execution department to enforce the judgment. This is however a difficult procedure as the foreign country will need to recognize Thai judgments in such cases.Child AbductionOne of the more specialized types of child custody cases are international abductions. Thailand is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and passed domestic law in 2013 enacting the International Civil Cooperation on Breach of Rights of Custody.In such cases, a parent must first establish their custody rights in Thai Family Courts. Then they can file a complaint with legal authorities in the country where the child was taken. A qualified Thailand Family Law Attorney can assist with this process including contacting Interpol, Thai police and private investigators as necessary.Legal paternity rulings are also important for this type of case. Only a legally recognized father can claim rights to a child in the event of a divorce or separation. Otherwise he will be considered illegitimate. This is also why mediation is a good option for couples who want to reach a custody agreement without going to court.Termination of Parental RightsThe child’s best interests are the primary consideration in any custody case. The Court will consider both parents’ behavior and how their relationship has affected the child.Unlike most western countries, Thai law does not automatically grant both parents parental power. Biological fathers who are unmarried must petition for legal paternity (legitimation) in order to gain full custodial rights of the child.Regardless of who is granted custody, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children and providing them with an appropriate upbringing (clause 1563 CCCT). Moreover, both parties are bound to maintain their children until they become sui juris. In the event that a parent does not wish to continue maintaining their child, the child can be transferred to another party to exercise parental powers under the authority of the Court (clause 1686 CCCT). This is done by filing a petition with the Family Court. This process will be accompanied by an observation and protection center assessment.