Grounds for Divorce in Korea: Judicial Divorces in Korea

Korean divorce law requires a petitioning spouse to prove “fault” that is attributable to the responding spouse for the breakdown of the marriage if the married couple is unable to agree to a divorce and all financial/custody matters are not resolved.  In a “divorce by agreement,” the married couple may, in many cases, divorce on the same day the divorce is filed to the Family Court.  

If you spouse is unwilling to agree to a divorce (divorce by agreement), in Korea, or you are unable to agree to the financial/custodial terms of a divorce – a “judicial divorce” may be required. 

Expats, in many cases, may file for divorce at a Korean Family Court if they have a significant connection to the country.  This includes, even, a marriage between two foreigners that did not occur in Korea or even a divorce that was not registered in Korea.

As noted above, if one spouse is unwilling to divorce, the plaintiff (petitioning) spouse must prove that the defendant (responding) spouse has “fault ” attributable to the defendant spouse that has caused the breakdown of the marriage – the specific grounds are noted below.  

Grounds for Divorce in Korea  (“At Fault Divorce”)
Article 840 of the Civil Act of Korea notes that the, only, grounds for divorce in Korea are:

  1. If the defendant spouse engaged in a sexual act outside of marriage;
  2. If the defendant spouse intentionally deserted the plaintiff spouse;
  3. If the lineal ascendants of the defendant spouse severely mistreated the plaintiff spouse;
  4. If the plaintiff spouses’ lineal ascendant extremely mistreated the defendant;
  5. If the defendant spouses whereabouts has been unknown for three years; and
  6. If their exists any other serious cause for making it difficult to continue the marriage.

Most large and mid-size cities have family courts.  The Seoul Family Court’s Website may be found at: Seoul Family Court.
Sean Hayes may be contacted at:

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty. Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw.

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