Living in Thailand as an expatriate with a family is surely an excellent adventure for children! The opportunity to travel and experience different cultures and the myriad of thrills and learning opportunities that help expand their horizons as they develop into well-rounded adults. But what happens if, unfortunately, tragedy befalls that excellent adventure, and something should happen to you as a parent? Do you have guardianship arrangements in place that Thai law will recognize?
Family law in Thailand may determine guardianship
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as the Hague Abduction Convention, of which Thailand is a party, would likely come into play if the custody rights of an intended guardian are not carefully considered and spelled out beforehand, and where that guardian lives someplace other than Thailand. While the Convention was drafted to primarily prevent one parent taking a child to a country that would take their side in a custody battle and thus ensures the prompt return of the child to their country of habitual residence, one aspect of the Convention governs which country has jurisdiction in determining a child custody. The effect is to preserve whatever status quo child custody arrangement existed immediately before an alleged “wrongful removal or retention” thereby deterring a parent (or as it relates to this article, an intended but unspecified guardian), from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court. The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16 and places the jurisdictional right with the Thai courts to determine custody over children who “habitually reside” in the Kingdom. Put simply, if you and your children consider Thailand your current and primary country of residence, Thai law prevails regarding custody and guardianship.
Thai courts can appoint a legal guardian to minor children if their parents are no longer able to care for them. The court can grant full or limited guardianship as it sees fit, meaning the court could restrict or allow complete control over medical, financial, and legal decisions for the child(ren) in question.
Thai courts oversee the guardianship process
Normally, when a petition for guardianship is filed with the courts, the applicant must appear before the court to first prove that there is a need for a guardian and that they are suitable to be appointed as guardian. The court then assesses the application and renders its decision at a second hearing (if the petition is not disputed).
The process could take at least three months if not longer if the court is unwilling to consider an emergency petition, so the better prepared the applicant is with the proper documentation, (a will compliant under Thai law naming them as guardian), the easier the process.
GPS Legal understands guardianship under Thai law
GPS Legal has years of experience assisting foreigners assert their rights in Thai courts, including for guardianship and custody of a minor child. Our team understands that this can be a sensitive issue and will work to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible. If you’d like to make sure that your family is taken care of in case of an emergency, please get in touch with GPS Legal.