Child Custody in Thailand

Child custody is a serious issue that requires the attention of a competent family lawyer. As in Western countries Thai Family Law places a high priority on the best interests of the child.

Mothers usually have sole custody of a child born out of wedlock. Fathers can claim rights if they have legitimized their child. This involves a legal marriage to the birth mother and the establishment of legal paternity.

Legal Custody

When it comes to child custody matters, emotions and legal complexities often collide. Legal professionals are a key asset to any custody case, offering insights into local laws and providing guidance tailored to each individual case.

Custody matters in Thailand are typically handled by family courts. Courts prioritize the child’s best interests and make custody decisions based on factors that consider the child’s environmental stability and emotional well-being.

For a married couple, the question of custody is normally settled at the time of divorce by either the parties’ mutual consent or a decision made by the judge after the divorce has been filed. For a child born out of wedlock, the father can petition for custody and parental powers through a two-step process:

The first step involves requesting legitimation of the child from the local district office with the mother’s consent. The second step is to file a petition for full or partial custody with the court.

Joint Custody

In Western countries the Mother and Father of a child typically get equal rights and obligations, but this is not the case under Thai law. According to the Supreme Court Decree and Section 1566 of the Civil and Commercial Code a biological father can acquire parental powers over a child only if legal paternity is established (he either marries the mother or declares himself as the father to the hospital authorities).

The first step in this process is to file a petition for legitimation with a district office, which is usually done together with the application for custody. This process can take between 2/3 months and up to one year.

Sole Custody

Under Thai law, mothers have sole custody of children. However, biological fathers can apply for parental rights (i.e. custody) after establishing legal paternity. This is usually done by applying to legitimize the child in a district office. The mother must also consent to this process.

Aside from these basic tenets, child custody disputes in Thailand can become quite complex due to various factors such as cultural nuances and robust legal frameworks. In most cases, the court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child. One specialized type of custody case involves a petition to terminate a parent’s parental rights, which requires strong evidence that the parent is unfit to raise the child. Additionally, the court may grant custody to a third party such as an aunt or other family member. For these reasons, it is important to hire a competent attorney who can navigate the complexities of custody issues in Thailand.


In Thailand a guardian is someone who has been granted parental power and control over a child (also called a “ward”) by the courts under section 1571 of the Thai family code. Parents usually share custody but in cases of abuse by a parent or where the children have been exposed to risky situations a guardian can be appointed to take over parental power and care. At GPS Legal we have extensive experience in helping foreigners assert their rights regarding guardianship and custody of a child in Thailand.

In most Western countries the mother and father get equal rights and obligations with regards to their children, however in Thailand this is not the case and it takes a long time for fathers to establish legal paternity and obtain custody rights. Even after this is established it is possible for the mother to give a guardianship of the child to another family member such as an aunt.

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