Thailand Divorce or Stateless Divorce

Statelessness is the legal and social status of a person who does not have a state that recognizes their nationality. The term is often associated with refugees and asylum claims. HAS divorce STATELESS, on the other hand, is a term I had just made up to refer to a divorce petition that could not be filed anywhere. It is the status of a married couple who have no status to recognize their petition for divorce. Normally, the petition for divorce is filed with the same civil registry office that registered the marriage. But what happens if foreign elements get involved?

Take the case of Robert and Kim. Robert and Kim got married in Holland. Robert is a Dutch citizen while Kim is a Canadian. When their marriage fell apart, Robert moved to Thailand while Kim moved to Singapore. Several years later, they decided to file for divorce.

Upon investigation, it was found that the Netherlands requires both parties to be Dutch citizens or, if not, one of them must have resided in the Netherlands for the last six months before a petition can be filed. Neither of them was able to return to the Netherlands and stay there for six long months, as their jobs are located elsewhere. Canada requires a minimum residence of one year. Singapore requires a minimum of three years of residency. Ultimately, the Thai courts did not take notice of the petition as the marriage was not registered here.

Robert and Kim were caught in a circle of conflicting laws. Clearly, they deserve to get a divorce in Thailand, but their circumstances would not allow it. Justice and fairness dictate that the law must have reserved some kind of protection. What is your remedy then? Apply the rules on Conflict of Laws.

Conflict of laws is that part of the law that comes into play when the matter before the court concerns some fact, event, or transaction that is so clearly connected with a foreign legal system as to require recourse to that system (Cheshire, Private International Law , 1947 ed., p.6). Simply put, it is a set of laws that require the court to apply the laws of another jurisdiction or refer the case to that jurisdiction.

In the case at the bar, Kim tried to file for divorce in Singapore, but was rejected for the obvious reason that she is not a citizen of Singapore nor was her marriage registered there. She resolved to obtain a statement from the Singaporean attorney that the Singaporean courts would not recognize her petition and therefore to apply to the Dutch court to grant it. Robert did the same thing with a Thai lawyer and a Canadian lawyer. This was a logical thing to do. What Robert did was seek refuge in her own country, which luckily is the same country that registered her marriage. Most likely, the Dutch court will admit the case to its file for the sake of justice.

The application of the conflict rules can be complicated, but never demanding. Different jurisdictions succumbed to a universal principle of truth and justice and had in fact made it part of their legal system. The bottom line is that there is always a legal remedy for every legal problem.

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