Divorcing a missing husband

My Thai girlfriend has been married to a German man since 1992. They have two children. One child was born in Thailand, the other in Germany, but both have German passports. When they moved back to Thailand five years ago, the husband supposedly took care of all the paperwork. After one year, he left his family and moved back to Germany. My girlfriend has not heard from him since, and all our attempts to find him in Germany have failed (not even his parents know where he is). Now we have discovered that the children were on a 30-day tourist visa when they entered Thailand, so the children have been here illegally for five years without my girlfriend’s knowledge. Now she is afraid that the children will be sent back to Germany and she will have to pay a very high fine. How can we solve this problem and how much will it cost? Is it possible for her to change the children’s expired German passports to Thai passports without her husband’s participation? What documents does she need to do this? Can she get a divorce from her missing husband without his participation? What happens to the children? Since the father is missing, will she get custody automatically? Is there any agreement between Thailand and Germany about paying child support for children? What happens when the father is missing? Will the German authorities pay in advance?

Mikael Matsson, Krabi.

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2 Answer(s)

No, she cannot change the children’s passports without her husband’s participation. But she can get a divorce and, since the husband left, it is also possible to go to the court to get sole custody of the children. If they married in Germany, she can file for a divorce in Thailand, but we would have to file it according to German law. She would have to give translated copies of relevant German documents to the judge. However, the case can only proceed if we have a valid address for the husband. A petition in Thailand for alimony won’t help her because the husband is living, presumably, in Germany. An order from a judge in Thailand would not be valid in Germany. Therefore, it would be in her best interest to file for divorce in Germany, where she should be able to get alimony immediately. In Germany, she’s very much protected by law with regards to alimony. If her husband has no money, the government will pay her first and then get it back from him. Even if the husband doesn’t show up in court, she may proceed with the case, and the judge will make an order in his absence. She can file for sole custody of the children in Thailand, which should not be a problem so long as no one else is filing for custody of the children, and the children are living with her. She would have to bring witnesses to confirm this is the case. She must present evidence to show how she is able to support the children, and how long the husband has been away. Once she has sole custody she will be able to take care of the children’s visa documentation by herself.

Sam Fauma, International Law Office, Phuket Town.

Answered on September 13, 2001.
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Normally, no foreigner may stay for longer than 100 days without incurring a fine of 20,000 baht. In this case, however, the best thing to do would be to bring the children’s passports, birth certificates and any other available documents to us so we can go through all the details and find a solution.

Surasak Tipparut, Provincial Immigration Office, Phuket Town.

Answered on September 13, 2001.
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