Divorce American Style
Last week I divorced my Thai wife. It cost me $315 and I did it myself. No lawyers, no demands for money, no loss of property…she got nothing. The reasons for the divorce are not so important other than for me to say my story is somewhat typical, one that you have heard many times before.
My wife and were married in Thailand and after marriage we spent about ½ the year in Thailand and ½ the year in the US where I owned a home. At about the 1-2 year point of the marriage she became verbally abusive and as the months passed it only got worse. I took her abuse. (That was my mistake). I should have drawn the line in the sand at that point but I did not.. (Get the message, guys?) Her violence got more and more extreme to the point where I feared for my life. I made a decision that she had to either change her behavior (which was probably impossible for her to do) or she had to go. I gave her the choice. She said go.
She went back to Thailand and I went through the usual grieving process.
In Thailand, if the spouse consents to a divorce and no property is involved, the process is easy. Both need to go to the district office and in 20-30 minutes the process is complete.
If the spouse consents and the husband is in the US and the wife is in Thailand, the process can be done but it must be handled through the district office, the Foreign Ministry, and the Royal Thai consulate in the US. The spouse in Thailand must initiate the procedure. (I have received this information from the Royal Thai consulate in the US).
I went back to Thailand and inquired in the district office whether I could get a divorce without her consent. I discovered I could but it would not be a simple process and would require going to a Thai court. The first Thai lawyer I talked to wanted 40,000 baht up front. I knew how the game was played and that most likely I would be extorted for more and more money so I did not go any further. I did not have property in Thailand so a Thai divorce, while desirable, was not essential.
I was going to try to get a divorce in the US.
After returning to the US, I contacted a US attorney and was told the upfront fee was $2,000 and, like Thailand, I assumed that I would be charged more and more money and that the investment would be so big that I could not fire the attorney and start the process all over with a new attorney. I decided against that option.
In my county we have a legal assistance office in the courthouse which will assist people who do not have an attorney in filing for divorce (and other legal matters). I decided to try that.
The divorce laws of each state vary however there is a common thread through US divorce law. You can get a divorce in any state and it does not have to be the state (or country) in which you were married. However, you must first meet the residency requirement of the state in which you are filing otherwise the case will be thrown out of court. One of the parties must be a resident of the state in which the divorce takes place. Usually it is for a period of 6 months however this varies from state to state. Nevada’s residency requirement is 6 weeks.
If you meet the residency requirement you must next file suit papers and have her served. This can be problematic, particularly if your spouse has returned to Thailand and you do not know where she is. How do you serve suit papers on her if she is in Thailand? Or how do you serve suit papers if she has just up and left with another guy and you do not know where she is? If you do not serve the divorce papers properly and in accordance with the law, the judge will not grant the divorce. The problems seemed insurmountable.
I made an appointment with the legal aid office in order that I get a proper advice and do everything in accordance with the law.
Then I got lucky. The lady in the legal aid office said I had to serve my spouse suit papers at the place where she lives. I replied that I do not know where she lives. The legal aid lady then said that the law provides that service of suit papers then must be to the last known address of the spouse. I said that the last known address of my spouse was my home and she does not live there anymore. She said that is not a problem. She said I can prepare suit papers, hire a process server, the process server will come to my home to try and serve suit papers on my spouse, I will tell the process server that she no longer lives at my home and that I do not know where she lives. Then the process server will prepare a “affidavit of non service” saying that he cannot locate my spouse. With the affidavit of non service I then go back to the courthouse and prepare papers for “service by publication”.
In cases where the spouse cannot be located and cannot be actually served, state law provides for “service by publication”. That means publishing in the newspaper for a period of three weeks a notice that there is a court hearing scheduled for the divorce and that she must appear in court or respond to the court by mail. The notice must contain certain information and must be done in accordance with the law. (In my case I went to the newspaper and told them what I wanted to do and they were aware of the legal requirements). The newspaper handled everything for me. The newspaper published the summons for a period of three weeks and then provided an affidavit to me (which I had to supply to the court) showing that it was published and that I had complied with the law.
She was now considered "served".
What is the likelihood that she would read that newspaper and appear in court? Zero likelihood.
After the publication I took all the documents and the affidavit from the newspaper and returned to the legal aid office. (I also had to complete a financial disclosure statement and a statement of non military service.) I also had to complete a proposed marital settlement order. This document is a list of the things that you are requesting in the divorce settlement, i.e. your property, your bank accounts, your car, etc, etc. It is what YOU want. The legal aid lady looked at all the documents and she said my work was all correct. Everything was done properly and all without an attorney.
There is a 120 day waiting period from the time of final filing to the date of the court case. Together the legal aid lady and myself agreed on a date that was convenient. I then asked what I needed to bring to court. She told me $5.00! That was all.
On the date of the divorce I dressed respectfully and appeared 15 minutes before my case was to be heard. There was one case before me so I had an idea of what to expect. When called I only answered questions that were put to me. I did not add anything. My conversation was filled with, Yes sir, No sir, Yes your honor, and No your honor.
The whole process lasted about 10 minutes. I got the divorce and all my property in the US. She got nothing. I did not feel the slightest bit guilty as I honestly tried to be the best possible husband. I never cheated on her nor did I ever abuse her in any way. My conscience was clear.
According to US law we are now divorced. My ex does not know we are divorced and, I suspect, that by Thai law, she is still considered married. Whether this will make any difference in the future I do not know but to me I am free.
The point to readers is that divorce can be done and done easily if you have the time and the fortitude to see it through. There is help and resources that allow you to do it yourself. While it may take time to do the research, the internet provides excellent guidance. I believe that probably all state laws are on the internet. The total time it took me to do everything, including the publication in the newspapers for three weeks and also the 120 day (4 month) waiting period, was 5 months… probably a speed record for the completion of a divorce but I had the time…and the motivation.
Thai divorce law is on the internet also. Chapter 1516 is the divorce chapter.