Child Custody in Thailand

Child Custody in Thailand

Child Custody is a very sensitive matter and needs to be handled by an experienced Lawyer. This article will cover some of the main points relating to child custody in Thailand.

Under Thai law parents are obligated to maintain their children until they reach the age of 20. In divorce cases, the court decides who will have custody. For unmarried couples, the father can obtain rights through a legitimation process.

Parental power

When it comes to child custody in Thailand, the word “custody” has a very different meaning than it does in common law countries. In Thai law, custody refers to the legal ‘guardianship’ of a child and it may be held by either the father or the mother.

Sometimes it is necessary for children to be cared for by a third party, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparents. If this is the case, it does not give them parental power.

In many cases where the father has not been married to the mother, he cannot legally get full custody of his child in Thailand. However, he can file for legitimation of the child and this is normally dealt with at the same time as custody.


Many biological fathers do not realize that even though their names appear on a child’s birth certificate in Thailand, they may not have legal parental rights over the child. The term “custody” means ‘guardianship’ in the broadest sense under Thai law (Section 19 of the CCCT).

If the father wishes to be granted custody and parental powers he must legally legitimize the child. This process involves two steps: the father must acknowledge his paternity, and the mother must consent to court-ordered legitimation.

A court can address issues of parental authority, custody and financial support within the same legitimation case. In this way, a father can establish his legal paternity and be legally required to pay child support. He also gains the right to be listed on the child’s surname and inheritance rights.

Child support

Under Thailand law, both parents must provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of 20. This is regardless of their marital status or living arrangements.

In Thailand, both parties can agree to joint custody of a child by signing an agreement and having it registered at the district office. This is normally done when a couple registers a divorce by mutual consent or an administrative divorce.

If a father wants custody rights, he must first register his legitimation with the local district office. This will allow him to have either joint or sole custody depending on the agreement made between the mother and the father. Family court judges use the best interest of the child as a standard in deciding custody cases. They may also appoint a third party as the child’s guardian or controller of property (clauses 1686 and 1687 CCCT).


In a child custody case in Thailand the best concern of the child is deemed to be the determining factor. However, there are a number of other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

For a married couple, custody arrangements are usually contained within the divorce agreement or a judgment rendered by the court. This is usually based on the parents’ mutual agreement.

For unmarried couples, the mother has sole custody of a child born out of wedlock. If the father wishes to have parental rights, he needs to legitimize his relationship with the child by registering at a district office. However, this is not always possible. The process is expensive and long. Even so, it is still worth trying.


In a divorce case where one parent is awarded full custody and parental powers, the other non-custodial parent will normally be given visitation rights either by agreement or ordered by the court. This is known as a shared custody arrangement.

Custody in Thailand refers to the control and charge over a child and is different than in Western countries where it refers to guardianship in the full sense. A person exercising parental power has the right to decide where a child lives, demand that a child be returned from someone unlawfully holding them and manage a child’s property with certain restrictions.

For unmarried parents, the mother automatically has sole custody and a father can obtain rights by registering his legitimation with the local district office. However, the process takes time and a lot of patience is required.

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