divorce lawyer in Korea

Divorce Procedure in Korea and How Long It Takes – Pick the #1 Divorce Lawyer in Korea

Advice from a Divorce Lawyer in Korea

Dear expats, this is the second article in our series on divorce procedures in Korea. We previously determined whether or not foreigners can divorce in Korea while this entry focuses on types of divorce and related procedures. Untying the knot doesn’t have turn into a drama, just do your research and take this process seriously.

South Korean law prescribes three types of divorce: by agreement (uncontested divorce, 협의이혼); via mediation (조정이혼); and by trial (contested divorce, 재판상 이혼).

We examine the differences and similarities of each type to provide information to help those seeking a divorce lawyer in Seoul (and Korea).

1. Divorce by Agreement (합의이혼)

This is obviously the easiest and least acrimonious way to obtain a divorce in South Korea.

You have to reach an agreement on each of the following (i.e. these terms & conditions of the divorce that must be mentioned in the agreement):

a) Whether the divorce will take place at all;
b) Property division;
c) Compensation for mental damages;
— If you have children—
d) Parental rights and custody holder;
e) Amount of child support if any; and
f) Visitation rights

However, please be aware of the following incommodities:

a. Both parties TOGETHER shall visit the court with jurisdiction over the case;

b. You must WAIT at least 1 month (3 months if you have a child/children);

c. 1 (or 3) month(s) later, both parties shall TOGETHER revisit the court;

d. You have to prepare some complicated Korean documents, such as 협의이혼의사확인신청서, 가족관계증명서, 혼인관계증명서, 주민등록등본 and 양육 및 친권자결정에 관한 협의서 (if you have a child)

e. You have no option but to file a lawsuit if any of the terms and conditions of the divorce agreement are not followed by your spouse.

The whole process can take from 1 to 3 months from the date of application (depending on whether or not children are part of the agreement).

2. Divorce by Mediation (조정이혼)

If you and your spouse already reached an agreement regarding divorce, but neither of you wants to wait for 3 months (especially those with children), or if you and your spouse only disagree on a few terms and want professional help from the court, you may be better off seeking divorce by mediation in Korea.

In fact, divorce by mediation is a mandatory process before divorce by trial; so, if you file a divorce complaint against your spouse due to the failure of divorce by agreement, you will have to participate in the mediation process at least once before actual hearings. It is totally up to you whether you hire a lawyer or not for the mediation process. However, hiring a lawyer who can speak your language, perfectly understands your terms and conditions and is willing to fight for your best interests is highly recommended for the mediation process in Korea. If you have a lawyer, you do NOT have to attend the hearings.

Once the parties reach an agreement on all the terms and conditions during mediation, the divorce will be considered finalized and a decree covering its terms and conditions will soon be issued. This divorce decree has yjr power of execution, so you can apply for legal enforcement without having to sue your ex-spouse if he/she violates any terms or conditions.

This process takes 30 to 45 days from the date of application for mediation.

3. Divorce by Trial (소송이혼)

If one of the parties does not want to divorce OR they both want to, but fail to reach an agreement regarding the terms of divorce, OR if one party is missing, you can file a divorce complaint against your spouse in order to seek divorce by trial.

If you want to divorce by trial as a foreigner in Korea, you will almost certainly need to hire an attorney given the difficulty in drafting a divorce complaint in Korean, preparing necessary documents, and representing yourself in a family court when seeking the best terms and conditions against your spouse (who will probably also hire a lawyer).

As mentioned above, after filing a divorce lawsuit, you (or your lawyer) must attend the mediation hearing unless there are special circumstances. If the parties fail to agree with the terms & conditions as presented by the mediator during the process, you will probably be subject to several family investigations to verify the financial contribution of each spouse that will decide the ratio of property division and examine who is more suitable to receive parental rights and/or custody holder (if you have a child/children.

This entire process can take time, upwards of 6 months before having the initial trial hearing. Thus, if mediation fails, the court will assign hearings, start listening to arguments by both parties, examine evidence submitted by each party, and then finally close the hearings. The court will announce its decision on a sentencing day held 3 to 4 weeks after the final hearing. If either party disagrees with the court’s decision, they can file an appeal within 14 days from the date of the decision. The attorney you hire only represents you in a family court during the 1st stage, so you may rehire them or change attorneys depending on the result. This is one of many reasons you need to be careful when hiring a divorce lawyer in Korea (or Seoul).

This entire process takes an average of 6 to 12 months if the case is completed within its first stage.

The next article in this series covers the legal grounds for divorce by trial in Korea.


21 thoughts on “Divorce Procedure in Korea and How Long It Takes – Pick the #1 Divorce Lawyer in Korea

  1. Ryan Smith says:

    My spouse and I want an uncontested divorce. We are American citizens from a state that allows no fault uncontested divorces. I have a translated and notarized copy of our marriage certificate. I have been told by Korean attorneys that I only need to file at the family court. Is that true? How could you help us and how much would that cost?

  2. Gina says:

    I want to divorce my korean husband for being an emotional turturing to me during a got mistake he always saying an insulting words againts me .Within 13 yrs.with him to understand his habit but dis time i surrender because i felt nervous on my part during the time when he angry shouting in a loud voice with insultings words.[your idiot, no body help you someday because you have no money to save it]

      • nicole says:

        Amina,
        Can you email me too about your case? I’m thinking of a divorce too because this emotional abuse is too much. I got threatened with divorce by my husband already 3 times and I’m just tired.
        rootes04@gmail.com

        Thank you so much.

    • Diane says:

      Hi anybody can help im filipina, i in married korean but now we already separated, my ex husband processed our divorce in korea its almost 4mons he just send me documents here in the philippines to sign it and for financial support for my son. But now he did not communicating i have no idea whats going on our divorce and support for my son. Im single mom wright no.. please i need help … thank you

    • Sara says:

      Sorry for you but I am the same here and want to send letter to court. How the process should start by me? Please inform me what you would know if it’s possible

  3. Nana says:

    My spouse and I are not Korean nationals, but we registered our marriage in Korea.
    We(or my husband) might leave Korea soon, can we still divorce even though we/he wouldn’t have ARC in future?

  4. Crystal says:

    Hi, Me and my husband decided to agree for a divorce,We have a child. We are no longer living together for 3years since 2017.
    We are on the process of counseling regarding 자녀교육 and it is done last week!
    We are told to meet again in 법원 this July7, What do you think will be the next step following the 자녀교육? Are we going to sign for the divorce agreement ?
    My 9yo daughter is currently resding with me for about 3 years ago.
    My husband is a Korean and still I’m holding F6 visa.

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  6. Pingback: Legal Grounds of divorce, Divorce by trial, Contested divorce Korea

  7. Salman Khokhar says:

    Hi, iam from Pakistan national living in korea from last 2 years on g1 refugee visa. I have 4 Children in Pakistan. My wife got another man and establish the relations with him from last year.now finally I want to divorce her while iam in korea now. Please let me define that how I can divorce her officially from korea and what would be the procedure.
    A broken heart seeking your help!
    Thanks.

    • Simon D. Lee, Esq. says:

      Dear Salman, thank you for your comment.
      As the actual marriage between you and your spouse has never taken place in Korea, the Korean court does not have jurisdiction.
      If however, your spouse agrees to divorce in Korean court under Korean law, we will be able to assist you and your spouse through a divorce by mediation proceedings.

  8. Jen says:

    Hi! Good morning! I am married to my Korean husband for almost 10 years but until now he doesn’t like to register our marriage and our twins in Korea. Every year I asked him but he always says I still have financial problem and refusing me to live with him and work in Korea to help him. My gut is telling me something is wrong. He doesn’t tell his exact address, the company where he works and he change his phone and did not give his new number. I want to know if my husband is married in Korea, his job, financial status, his contact number and where he lives without him knowing. Please help me.

  9. Alice says:

    I have questions in regards with divorce. My husband is Korean. And we been married for about 5 years, and honestly the relationship is half foot out the door. I have records of him cheating and sleeping with escorts. I am wondering about the length of records that I can use against him with infidelity?. I am emotionally exhausted with his constant verbal abuse. What grounds can I proceed with my cade?

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