Marriage and Divorce in Thailand
After returning from Europe in late May this year I was victim of an accident on my early morning bicycle-ride exercise. Run over from the back by a motorbike my left leg was severely fractured (tibia and fibula) as well as the right collarbone! A week in hospital and 3 months on crutches gave me time to read the Stickman column more frequently again. Phet is my favorite contributor to the readers' submissions section, possibly because he’s closer to my age than most of the others! So here’s my piece.
In good times (healthy and no accident) I’m only an occasional Stickman reader and here’s why: My origin is a small, centrally situated European country. It’s landlocked but nevertheless a great sailing nation (Stick and other New Zealanders will understand). There are 3 national languages; English is not one of them. I’m on the wrong side of 60 and visit Bangkok or Pattaya only infrequently these days. Hardly the customary Stickman reader. However I have lived in Thailand since 1989 and as anybody who has been here at that time and is of my generation fondly remember the Thai capital of the “good old days!” At the location of Rainbow 1 there was a travel agent at that time and the bar on the right side when entering Nana Plaza (I think it's named Big Dogs now) had a sign that said something to the effect of: “Arabian gentleman should respect their religion and are not welcome to drink at this bar!”
So what do I have to say about Thailand on an English-language internet forum after living here so many years? A lot really, but this is a short summery of a 12-year marriage and subsequent divorce in Thailand.
I married in August 2000 a girl from a small village close to a large north-eastern town. My son was born a few months before, in April of the same year. She was a former bargirl and yes, I should have known better. Stickman wasn’t around for advice at that time and not even Hutchison’s Pattaya survival guide “Money number one” had been written. The mistake I’d made soon became apparent. After a very short period the lady left, leaving behind our son. I was running my own business then in the tour-operating sector in Phuket. Two of the dedicated staff took care of him during the day. Most evenings I just stayed home watching UBC (now True Visions) and taking care of my son. From that time on and during most of the time since then I didn’t know where the mother was to be found though I did meet with her a few times but very infrequently. My son has been living with me ever since. To this day I cannot understand that a mother can show so much indifference toward her own child. I did have regular contact with his grandmother, my mother in law, who is a few years younger than me. She never told me though that my wife had given birth to another child in about 2004. I found out when I applied for residency and needed her “longtabian baan” and birth certificate a few years later. The father was listed as unknown. In 2004 I sold my business and retired. I helped (financially) the mother in law to build a house after her husband had died and until recently transferred moderate but regular amounts of money to help support her (she’s looking after my wife’s second child of whom I’m not the father). I did not press for divorce earlier mainly because the wife did not pester me for money or other and basically left me alone.
That changed earlier this year. Going for a two week trip to my home country, I asked the mother in law to look after my son. She agreed but what horror, she turned up at the house with her daughter (my wife) which I had specifically said I would not accept. However it was one day before my departure and too late to cancel. The outcome was predictable. On my return their were half a dozen neighbors turning up at my house she had “borrowed” money from. There was also a large, outstanding invoice at the store on the entrance to the estate to be taken care of. Needless to say that I had left them more than enough cash before leaving and again contributed generously when I came home. The two women almost immediately left after my return but the mother did tell me that my wife had “lost the house keys”. I knew what that meant and changed locks early the following morning. To late unfortunately! The motorbike parked on the front porch disappeared early the day after during the 45-minute drive it takes me to send my son to school. Turns out she gambled and lost the motorbike playing cards, handed over the keys to an accomplice and the motorbike was never seen again. Police would only intervene if I was willing to make a “contribution”. I was not prepared to do that.
With the help of a former member of my staff, we found a suitable lawyer to initiate the divorce proceedings. A first citation to the district office of the town where I now live with my son since taking retirement, she ignored. Same outcome when subpoenaed to the northeastern district office. A third and last citation was scheduled in Bangkok. Frequent telephone calls by my wife to my lawyer then started asking from 100,000 baht upwards to attend. By this time my lawyer had informed me that her attendance was now no longer necessary. I declined to pay any indemnity and just waited. Eventually a new meeting was scheduled at the Don-Meuang Ampoer in Bangkok. Only I would attend with my son and witness plus the legal representative. My wife however in last minute telephone calls to my lawyer (by this time she had been barred having any contact with me personally) now agreed to come and sign the documents for 10,000 baht to which I agreed.
On Friday the 14th December we all met at the Ampoer. Though I had brought along all the necessary documents the case worker apparently searched for reasons to delay. We were sent to a translation bureau to have my passport translated into Thai language (first time in 23 years in Thailand I was asked for that). Next he was to send us to my embassy to authenticate the translation. It was Friday afternoon 3 PM by then and too late. Thankfully my lawyer had done his homework and a large book came out of his bag file on the table. It showed and proved to the case worker that this was not required. At this point a much friendlier lady took over (I suspect the guy had a total face loss and disappeared). The divorce document and accompanying paperwork concerning settlement and child custody were issued in less than an hour and signed by all concerned. After that I paid the formerly agreed settlement sum of 10,000 baht to the ex wife and Aom, my former staff member who acted as witness to the proceedings, took a photo of the money handover just to make sure. She said, “She won’t ask you again for it”.
What an absolute rigmarole! Sounds like one big nightmare to me, but good on you for getting through it and coming out the other side!