Legal Problems in Cross-Cultural Couples

Thailand is fast becoming the land of foreign son-in-laws, with the number of cross-cultural marriages rising from year to year. However, not all marriages are milk and honey. For instance, Em, a 28 year-old Thai woman married a British man. She was deserted by her husband after years of constant arguments and conflicts. He took their daughter back to England, without the mother’s consent.

Em is now stranded, with no financial possibilities to travel to England and file for divorce. She is not the only one in this situation. Members of Women and Youth Studies in Thailand state that there is a rising number of Thai women entering into cross-cultural marriages each year. This has raised awareness of many organisations that deal with women’s rights, about the unfairness of Thai family laws and the major lack of legal knowledge among many Thai women.

In 2006, a study was conducted on the number of intercultural marriages of young Thai women in the North-east part of Thailand. The study investigated the main risks and aftermaths that such marriages pose to the cultural and traditional values in the rural areas of Thailand. Nevertheless, these intercultural marriages do not occur just in the North-eastern part of Thailand, but all over the country.


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Unfortunately, Thai ladies are not very knowledgeable regarding the legalities concerning this type of marriage. With the high number of cross-cultural marriages, a seemingly byproduct will the intercultural divorce. Organisations that defend Thai women’s rights need to pay more attention to this.

While the flux of western tourists in Thailand is high, few of them actually decide to move in for good. All the same, men marrying Thai women decide to settle down in Thailand. They are not just falling in love while on holiday, they are coming with the pre-planned intent of finding a doe-eyed Thai beauty to be their spouse.


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Western men quickly lose interest in their Thai brides and they either go back to their countries or filing for divorce. Unfortunately, Thai women are very ignorant about Thai family laws which favour chauvinism in the country. Due to the lack of accessible information, Thai women in cross-cultural marriages are generally unaware of the legal help they can benefit from.

In Thailand, the laws regarding cross-cultural marriage are clearly chauvinistic, as women do not have a word to say in their situation. A husband’s adultery is not grounds for divorce unless he intentionally flaunts the relationship to the public, while any form of adultery a wife engages in, provides grounds for the husband to file for divorce immediately. The video below presents the means of getting a divorce in Thailand.

Whatever the reasons western men wish to choose a Thai wife, the mixed Thai-Western marriage is now an established part of Phuket’s scenery. Not all of these Western men find their dream wife. Many of these marriages have problems, but that is true of marriages all over the world. There are specific problems related to marriages between people from different cultures.