An Overview of Paternity, Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support under Korean Law

We have received many inquiries regarding the child support obligation and custody/visitation rights under Korean law.  Some cases are related to the divorcing parties and some to the unmarried couples who had babies during the relationship.

In case of unmarried couples, the birth father has no parental rights and obligations until his paternity is established in Korea.  That can be done in 2 ways.  One is to report himself as the father with the Korean local government and the other one is filing a paternity suit.

When the parental relationship is established, the parties need to agree on the matters of child custody, visitation and child support.  The same goes for the couple divorcing in South Korea.  When it is hard to reach an agreement, the matters will be heard and decided by the judge per the party’s filing a suit with the family court.

The judge considers and reviews various facts in making the decision of child custody.  The rule of thumb is the best interest of the child.  In Korea, it is very hard for the father to be awarded the custody when the child is very young.  The mother’s consent or history of mother’s child abuse, abandonment, mental illness are required for the father to have the child custody.

As to the child support amount, there is an internal rule of the Korean Family Court when the amount is calculated.  For example, when the child is under the age of 2, the monthly cost ranges from 500USD to 1600USD depending on the total incomes of both parties.  Then the court applies a distributed share to the monthly cost.  The most common share is 50:50, which means the child support amount usually ranges from 250USD to 800USD.  But the judge can adjust the amount a little bit by her own discretion.

As to the child visitation, the most common visitation schedule is 2 weekends per month and 3 or 4 days for each of summer and winter vacation.

All these child custody related issues can be negotiated and settled between the parties, too.  In such a case, it is always good and safe to contact a Korean qualified attorney before making any decision.  He can not only provide you with the relevant legal information and opinion but also guide you on how to formalize the parties’ agreement.

If you have any questions regarding this article or you are in a similar case/situation, please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email by clicking here.  Our Korean qualified lawyer will answer your inquiry.

You can find more articles about Korean divorce law and cases here.

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  1. If a court grants parental and custodial rights to only one parent in a lawsuit presented after the divorce, does the other parent lose the visitation rights?

    1. No, the other parent shall be entitled to the visitation right. Under Korean law, a visitation right is a statutory right given to the non-custodial parent.

      1. Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify one more time, even if court grants parental rights to one person (aside from the custody), and the other parent ends up with no parental rights, this other parent still can have visitation rights?. Thank you.

  2. My brother is in the US Army and currently station in south korea. He is now dating a woman who lives in korea but is from philippines. She is currently pregnant with my brothers baby. This girl has 2 other children by other men that she had sent to live in the Philippines with her mother. The girl is now saying she does not want to marry my brother or even be with him now. What can he do to protect himself from losing a child he wants? What are his rights?

  3. If a Soldier gets another race of women pregnant in Korea, lets say African. He is established as the father meaning he has parental rights to the child, can the mother take the child out of South Korea to Africa, if the court order was served in South Korea? I know normally, the mother cannot relocate without the permission of the legal father.

  4. I am an American father of a five-year-old girl the mother is also American, the mother wants to travel to South Korea with my daughter for two years her spouse is in the army and I’m paying child support what happens or what is the rules for taking my daughter out of the country if and me paying child support? Do I continue to pay full amounts or a negotiated amount of child support?

  5. I was divorced and my ex husband ( korean) hasn’t been paying child support. I have full custody of my two kids. What can I do to make him do his obligation?

    1. Thanks for contacting our office. We had replied to your inquiry by an email. Please let us know if you have further questions.

        1. There is no difference in claiming child supports when the father is doing military service or not. If the father refuses to provide financial assistance, you will have to get the court order to enforce his liability under the law.
          Hope this is of any assistance to you.

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