Navigating the Divorce Process in Korea: A Focus on Korean and Foreigner Marriages


Divorce, no matter where it happens, is an emotionally challenging process. In Korea, the complexity increases when one party is a foreigner due to the intricacies of international and domestic laws. This guide offers an overview of the general divorce process in Korea, with an added emphasis on the unique challenges faced by international couples.

1. Grounds for Divorce

Understanding the basis for divorce is crucial:

  • Mutual Agreement (협의 이혼): Both parties decide on marriage dissolution and associated matters like child custody and property division.
  • Judicial Divorce (재판 이혼): If consensus isn’t possible, one can initiate a court divorce. Grounds include adultery, malicious desertion, extreme maltreatment, among others, that make marriage continuation challenging.

2. Divorce Involving Foreigners

Divorces between Koreans and foreigners come with additional concerns:

  • Jurisdiction: Typically, Korean courts have jurisdiction if both spouses reside in Korea. However, if the foreign spouse resides outside Korea, things become complex and depend on international conventions and agreements.
  • Documentation: Foreigners will need to provide translated and possibly notarized versions of all official foreign documents.

3. Filing the Divorce Application

Mutual Agreement Divorce:

  • Parties can file a mutual agreement divorce report with the Family Court.
  • It mandates a form detailing alimony, property division, and child custody agreements.

Judicial Divorce:

  • If consensus isn’t achievable, a lawsuit with the Family Court is necessary. This procedure involves hearings and evidence submission.

4. Child Custody and Support in International Cases

Child-related matters in international divorces have added layers:

  • Custody: Korean courts favor the child’s best interests. International cases may also involve Hague Convention issues if child abduction concerns arise.
  • Child Support: The non-custodial parent may need to pay child support, determined by the child’s requirements and the parent’s financial capability.

5. Property Division

Korea operates under the “Marital Property System”:

  • Marital assets are viewed as joint property and are divided fairly.
  • Typically, pre-marriage properties, inheritances, or gifts remain with the original owner unless mixed with marital assets.

6. Alimony Considerations

Alimony isn’t guaranteed:

  • Courts consider marriage duration, the living standard during marriage, each party’s age and health, and financial need versus the capacity to pay.

7. Finalizing the Divorce

Upon settling all issues:

  • Mutual Agreement Divorce concludes once the Family Court accepts the report.
  • Judicial Divorce requires a court-issued final judgment. Without an appeal within two weeks, the divorce finalizes.

8. Post-Divorce Considerations for Foreigners

  • Visa Status: Post-divorce, the foreign spouse may need to change their visa status or face potential deportation.
  • Repatriation: If the foreign spouse decides to return to their home country, matters like child custody can become more complex, especially if one parent stays in Korea.

Given the unique challenges in divorces involving foreigners, professional legal assistance is crucial. A knowledgeable attorney will guide you through both Korean and international legal nuances, safeguarding your rights.

Concluding Thoughts

Divorce is a challenging journey, more so for international couples in Korea. Knowledge and legal advice are key in navigating this intricate process. Lean on legal professionals and your support circle during these times.

For guidance on divorce in Korea, we recommend reaching out to our legal adviser, Attorney Taewoo KIM of JEHA. You can contact him via email at