Getting parental powers over your child when unmarried

Last edited: September 07, 2018 at 07:44:26

When you and your Thai partner get a child, but you're (consciously) not married, it's important to get your papers right, because, as in many countries in this situation you as a father don't have any rights. You risk being left in the cold when your partner doesn't like you anymore and takes revenge on you by withholding the child from you. I've seen too many guys cry when their once beloved partner simply called the police and there was absolutely nothing that they could do.
When you marry your Thai partner in Thailand or elsewhere, many rights and obligations including Parental Powers1 are arranged automatically in your marriage contract so you don't need to worry about it until you divorce, but you may not always like the standard package that marriage contracts have to offer to you, so that can be a reason to handpick your own package.

Nowadays, more and more Thai women are openly relaxed about getting married or not, so if you have your personal reasons not to get married on paper, your rights as a parents are NOT automatically established so you need to take steps to get that properly done. Here's what you need to do:

1. Registering birth - the Thai birth certificate

Right after birth, a doctor will issue a small paper testifying the birth of your child. This paper has NO legal meaning, it is merely a notice to the local districts office to record the birth. The mother and father should go to the local districts office that governs the area where the child was born, if the child was born in a hospital then it's simply the districts office that governs the district in which the hospital is located, not the district where you live. The districts office will issue the birth certificate.

The fact that your name as a father is on the small paper from the doctor / hospital or even on the birth certificate does NOT give you any legal rights, you are not even the legal father yet so officially (legally) the child has no father.
This can be confusing to many foreigners because in many other countries, your name as a father on the birth certificate does mean something. Not so in Thailand and with these Thai papers you won't get anywhere internationally.

A reason for this could be that there have been cases of corruption of doctors who issue the small paper for a child that was not born to the parents (but taken from the mountain, trafficked or otherwise) so the value of a birth certificate in Thailand is not 100% unattested.

Having your name on the birth certificate is therefore a necessary but not sufficient step to get your rights as the father of the child established.

2. Hiring a laywer

In order to get your share of Parental Powers as a father, you need to apply for this at the Juvenile Court.

If your wife is in agreement with you sharing Parental Powers, the process should be smooth and you just have to follow the steps. If she is not in agreement, you're in big trouble and your chances to get any rights in this situation are very dim.

While Thai citizens can walk through the entire procedure without a lawyer and for a few thousand baht, foreigners are not allowed to do this without a lawyer so you need to find and appoint one.

When I asked around how much lawyers charge for this kind of assistance service, the reputable but expensive firm Siam Legalthe quoted me a staggering fee of THB 150,000 (excluding additional expenses such as a DNA test), some other lawyers in Chiang Mai quoted a fee between THB 30,000 and THB 50,000 and the cheapest lawyer I could find was a local one who didn't speak any English but promised to do it for THB 9,500 all in.
I went for the cheapest one, as it is all basically an assistance in an administrative procedure and not a complicated litigation case for which you need a very smart lawyer. It all gone past for THB 9,500 including all court fees so I saved myself a small fortune by not hiring another lawyer and that's why I share this information with you here.

3. Appointment at the Juvenile department

After appointing the lawyer, he/she will make an appointment for you at the Juvenile department first and at the Juvenile Court later.

The appointment at the Juvenile department is an interview with some kind of social worker together with your partner and the kid as well as a witness. The social worker will ask all kinds of questions with regard to your family situation, who takes care of the kid, who pays for expenses, what is your job, and so on. This is all to make sure that there is a normal situation and sharing the Parental Powers will be in the interest of the child.

All of Thai law with regard to Parental Powers is aimed at the well-being of the child, so if either parent has a drinking problem, is bankrupt, or has a criminal record, those are real issues that can be a reason for the Court to not grant Parental Powers to that parent.

The social worker is trained to ask trick questions, ask the same question several times to double check whether you are speaking the truth, all of this to verify if the situation is normal and benefical for the child. In Thailand this is necessary, because some children are abducted, trafficked, traded or otherwise, and also many parents are not capable of raising a child.

If the child is aged 7 years or over, the social worker will also ask the opinion of the child.

Both you, your partner and a witness sign a statement with the social worker and then you can move on to your hearing with the Court in about a month's time.

The Juvenile Department of Chiang Mai is located in a bit strange location out of town, it's housed inside the Juvenile Detention Center in Mae Sa and hard to find if you haven't been there before.

4. Hearing at the Juvenile Court

This meeting at the Court is officially for the judge to hear you as the applicant of Parental Powers. You could go alone with your lawyer but it is better if your partner goes too and if the child is old enough, to show the child in Court as well.

The Chiang Mai Juvenile Court is located on the Superhigway just across from Big C Extra.

You will have to make a statement and the Judge will ask some questions. Since the Judge already has statements of your partner and a witness, this should be a hammer piece and the whole thing shouldn't last for more than 20 minutes. Mind you: you need to speak sufficient Thai to appear in Court and answer questions, if you can't you need to hire an official translator.

After the Judge has heard your statement, he will approve it and then the Law requires one month of waiting time to allow an outsider to stand up and declare that he and not you is the true father of the child. This is when a DNA test will come in handy, but if there are no doubts about that in advance, there really is no need for a DNA test (at THB 15,000-20,000) as some lawyers state.

5. Registering the Court Verdict

After the one month waiting time has passed, the Court Verdict will be ready for your collection through the lawyer. The last thing you have to do is to register it at the Amphur where the child is living together with your Thai partner.

The entire process should take up to three months if there are no legal or technical delays.

Philip Grant

NOTE 1. The definition of Parental Powers in Thailand could be a bit different from that in other countries: there are various aspects of excersing your rights over children distinguished in Parental Powers, Guardianship and Custody. For this article, there is no need to distinguish these differences in detail.

Leave a comment

Note: By posting a comment or question, you will not automatically be notified when other people respond to your post (as in some other social media message threads). Please check the thread yourself if you’re interested in this topic.

Please put in your real email address. It will not be displayed with your comment or on the site, but we can answer you if needed. Comments with fake email addresses may be removed.
Some comments may be edited or deleted, according to our comments policy.