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MARRIAGE TO A THAI FIANCEE: MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE (BETROTHAL AND ITS AFTERMATH IN THAILAND)
By Chaninat & Leeds
As an exotic, intoxicating travel destination and a business epicenter in Southeast Asia, Thailand continues to attract millions of foreign visitors each year. As the throngs of vacationers, business and professional people filter through the fabric of Thai society, many find love and either make Thailand a permanent home or they take their spouses and return to their respective home countries. Inevitably, the subject of marriage arises along with all of its associated financial, personal, and legal issues.
MARRIAGE IN THAILAND
A quick Google search will yield scores of pages with complex, often-contradictory explanations of the marriage process in Thailand. Marriage planners and expat blogs advertise the procedure as quick and painless, and with the right approach and proper considerations taken into account, it absolutely can be. The administrative legalization of a marriage between a Thai citizen and a foreign national in Thailand is fairly straightforward and usually requires proof of the right to marry (these can usually be obtained at the interested party’s embassy), divorce decrees (if either spouse has been previously married), legalized translations, and proper identification. The process becomes more complicated when spousal investigations and pre-nuptial agreements are entered into the equation.
K1 vs K3 Visa Thailand
For American citizens seeking to bring their Thai fiancées or brides back the United States with them, the first step is to decide which visa is right for them. The most common visa vehicles for getting a Thai loved-one to the United States are the K1 visa Thailand and the K3 visa Thailand. The K1 visa is a fiancée visa which entitles its possessor to a 90-day period in the United States within which the American citizen and foreign fiancée must be married, and ‘adjust the status’ of the foreign national. The K3 visa is a spouse visa and is only for American citizens and foreign spouses who have been married outside the United States. Each has its own benefits. The K1 visa process is usually faster and has the built-in, 90-day trial feature. The K3 visa has lower government fees but requires more time; the K3 also imposes fewer restrictions upon the foreign spouse. The U.S. visa process is rather cumbersome and can be made even more so if it is not coordinated carefully and correctly. Nevertheless, the satisfaction gained from successful visa petitions and embassy interviews is worth the effort for those Thai-American couples seeking to live in the U.S.
BEING CONSCIOUS – THAILAND DIVORCE
With the effort, money and time required for U.S. visas, pre-nuptial agreements, and other formalities that accompany marriages between Thai citizens and Americans or any foreign nationals, it pays dividends to have the correct information and guidance. Recent divorce statistics for Thailand and the complexities of a divorce in the “Land of Smiles” should be reason for pause for anyone considering marriage in Thailand.
Despite negative stereotypes surrounding cross-cultural marriages and marriages between a Thai citizen and a foreigner in particular, a good many of these marriages do turn into rewarding, life-long bonds between partners. Nevertheless, a healthy dose of care is wise. According to government statistics released over the past few years, the Thailand divorce rate is on the rise and in 2004 stood at around 40% or 1.28 divorces per 1,000 couples (compared to .97 per 1,000 in 1994). This increase has been cause for soul-searching, as some worry that Thai traditional family values are eroding. It also has led to some startling revelations, including the 142 divorce petitions submitted to the Khon Kaen Civil Court over a three-month period in 2007, all of which belonged to mixed-marriage couples.
DIVORCE AND TERMINAL SEPARATION
Britons Ian Beeston and Toby Charnaud, both of whom were murdered by Thai spouses (or former spouses in the case of Mr. Charnaud) in order to enjoy the financial rewards of terminating their spouses through the medium of the Thai legal system, provide cautionary tales of marriage in Thailand. There are countless other stories of foreigners losing property and more after entering into a legal marriage pact with a Thai partner, and though these stories are the extreme exceptions to the rule, they offer cogent lessons. Thailand is a beautiful country but, culturally, legally, and politically, it stands in stark contrast to most Western countries. It comes as a surprise to some, especially considering the ease of legalizing a marriage, that Thai divorce proceedings can be quite complicated. With this in mind, it is heartening to know that the divorce rate in Thailand is still 30% lower than in the United States.
Marriage and Divorce in Thailand: When Love Turns Deadly