Full Custody as a Foreigner

I am an American and have a 3-year old son, his mother is Taiwanese. We married, but she is requesting a divorce. I have no contest to the divorce, but do not agree with the terms of custody. She wants full custody, and I would get visitation rights twice a month. She is very fickle in her behavior and has changed the terms she is offering multiple times. I requested half custody and more visitation, she said she will let the courts decide. I spoke to an attorney, he stated an initial retainer of NT$150,000 for half custody in district court only. I am considering what are my options regarding full custody. If anyone can provide advice on the following:

1.- Is the estimated NT$150,000 a fair estimate or should I shop around.
2.- Has any foreigner been granted full custody against a Taiwanese mother?
3.- What are the estimated costs for a full custody fight in Taiwanese courts?
4.- Any advice or experiences relating to custody battles in Taiwan would be appreciated.

I understand there is a lot of information in this forum regarding the above, I have been reading through it as well. However, I am looking to find information directly related to the above in one place. Thank you all in advance for your help. It is duly appreciated. Whereas I do understand Chinese, at this level I am at an extreme disadvantage and beginning to feel hopeless.

Yes for an experienced lawyer in Taipei. NT$60,000 would be reasonable in Tainan.

The important question is how much experience this lawyer has in family cases. You can check on this site if you can read Chinese. If you can’t PM with your lawyer’s name (in Chinese) and I can check for you.

I’m not sure about a father. There is the Iruan Ergui Wu case where the Brazilian grandmother’s custody was upheld. I’m sure you are aware of the Emily Ruan case where the American father lost. I believe that a number of Southeast Asian immigrant mothers have been awarded sole custody.

The court decides custody based on the “best interest of the child” doctrine. The court considers all of the following factors and makes a decision based on their totality:

(1) age of the child;
(2) sex of the child;
(3) number of children of the parents;
(4) health of the child;
(5) wishes of the child;
(6) needs of the child’s personality development;
(7) age of the child’s parents;
(8) occupation and economic resources of the parents;
(9) moral character and performance of the parents;
(10) health of the parents;
(11) living conditions and life styles of the parents;
(12) wishes and attitudes of the child’s parents as to his custody;
(13) parent-child relationship and affection;
(14) relationship and affection between the child and other people who live with him.
(15) report of social worker.

According to thispaper, custody was awarded to the mother in most cases between 1996 and 2004.

So the problem may be less that you are a foreigner and more that you are a man.

The paper also found that joint custody decisions were very rare:

This data is more than ten years old. You are likely to have a younger judge in family case and I hear that the quality of the decisions is better in the new dedicated family courts.

I would say at least NT$300,000 based on the quote you have now.

Sorry not really. This is based on web research. I have had a few friends in this situation and all of them were able to work out amicable arrangements where the parents agreed to joint custody. The process was not always easy or pleasant but they managed and an agreement is always going to be easier and less expensive than going to court. Ask your lawyer about mediation and see if you can get the mother to agree.

You definitely need a lawyer though. Don’t rely on what you read online or hear from friends.

Good luck!


I am more or less in a similar position than the OP.
However already divorced (still holding official shared custody according to divorce paper).
Same thing, ex-wife wants 100%, and me like OP insisting on shared custody.

My advice (funny I am saying this now, but that’s another story):
Do not sign the divorce-papers until and unless you reached an agreement in your favor.

For more info’s please pm me
And I am sure Mr. He and PGDaddy will throw in their input too.

I am more or less in a similar position than the OP.
However already divorced (still holding official shared custody according to divorce paper).
Same thing, ex-wife wants 100%, and me like OP insisting on shared custody.

My advice (funny I am saying this now, but that’s another story):
Do not sign the divorce-papers until and unless you reached an agreement in your favor.

For more info’s please pm me
And I am sure Mr. He and PGDaddy will throw in their input too.

OP, let the mother demand whatever she wants. She will not get the divorce until either you agree or a number of statutory grounds apply, i.e. you are a proven adulterer or have a loathsome disease (like HIV/Aids). Simply do not agree to the divorce unless you like the terms of your visitation rights. Or simply do not agree to the divorce entirely.

Thank you all for your input. It is really helpful. I have tried approaching her about dealing with it amicably, but she has been insistent. Also, she is claiming lets get divorced and then deal with the custody later. I have insisted I will not agree with this arrangement, as I will have no leaverage following the divorce. She is claiming adultery and unreconcilable differences, but there is, to my knowledge, no proof of adultery. I agree with the unreconcilable differences, but that should not keep me from being an active person in my son’s life, neither should it keep me from being part of the decision process for things related to his life such as schooling, etc. I fear that her fickleness will only get worse if I grant full custody, as I would essentially be relinquishing any rights I have to my son. We have been separated before, and she would not let me see him based on whether she was angry at me or not that day. I see this as comletely unreasonable and unfair for her to demand this as the solution.

I have read there is a mediation period prior to going before a judge, do I need to have the lawyer for the mediation period? I feel the expense price is because I am a foreigner and the lawyer feels it will be a big hassle.

How valuable is your child to you? You have to pay, but be wise about it. make sure that the lawyer is on your side. As said, no one can divorce you if you do not agree and it is very difficult, unless you hand in the proof yourself, to determine adultery. Do not sign anything but please also be advised that as any other contract, it will be difficult to enforce. However, having no contract at all -regarding visitation- is impossible to enforce. No visits, no divorce. Period.

Refuse the divorce. Grant her absolutely nothing. Tell the judge how much you love your wife and child and don’t want to be shut out of their lives. Deny any accusations leveled at you. She won’t be able to divorce you.

Then, remain firm in being a big part of your son’s life. Never badmouth your wife in front of him (or anyone) and let him grow up to a point where:
a. he’s old enough that he won’t be able to forget you
b. he’s old enough to see that his mother’s batshit insane

Yes, you’ll need to put your life on hold for years. Stuff sucks. How important is he to you?

I don’t know if it’s something in the water here or what but there are lots of women in Taiwan who follow the exact same predictable pattern when a relationship they’re in fails (thank God my ex and I never had kids). You can’t expect any kind of rational agreement from her regarding custody or - well, anything really. There are far too many stories of fathers who end up shut out of their child’s life in Taiwan - don’t end up being another one.


And there is your leverage. Let her sue. Let her try. Unless she has something really good and proven and able to stand up in court, just do not play along. It’s not yor job to jump because she tells you to.

Offer her nothing. Refuse and the refuse some more. She is the one wanting the divorce, so let her buy it from you on your terms.

I am not going to bother you regarding joint custody, apart from that it seems to be more normal to be achieved if you settle out of court. I have always preferred that.

I would get myself an experienced male divorce laywer for the agreement, however I would not even contemplate going or taking her to court. Settle “amicably” in private with the lawyer you pay writing up the terms.

There are exceptions regarding the keeping out of court thing. If you are able to produce documentary proof of one of the reasons under which divorce is allowed under Taiwan law, especially if she gets preggers with somebody else’s child, or is caught in bed with another male and that is proven beyond doubt, then I would pounce on her in court, however by then, the choice for her would be to give you everything you want,or go to jail for up to a year, during which I would take what I wanted anyways.

It goes without saying that you are to be a good father and spend time with your children, however that has nothing to do with the legal situation as it is right now, unless you screw up or have screwed up badly.

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Does she have proof? I have been accused of that as well, however there was no way any non-forged proof could have been produced for that period of time.

If you want a complete say over your son’s schooling and all that, then you need sole custody. The parent the child actually lives with, will more often than not take day to day decisions. I get called up once in a while and asked about this and that, however that my little ones go to a school and that they go to cram school afterwards - no, I have no major issues about them doing this or that, so I am happy with my ex sorting that. Really.

It is hard to say how she will be, once the divorce papers are signed. First of all, wouldshe depend on your child support to make ends meet? That would make her easier to deal with afterwards. Secondly, the issues you might have now will fade after a few years as you both get on with you lives. She will see her son miss daddy - I am probably one of the more travelled and busier forumosans, and when I have been unable to see the little ones for 3-4 weekends as I am abroad, I will get reminders from her. I suspect they come through gritted teeth, however they do come.

The bigger ones were kept away from me during the seperation period, however that has changed as they moved overseas. I do however ensure that they get to see their mother at least 3-4 times per decade, which must suffice, unless their mother pay for it.


I am curious how this all panned out last year. I’d like to know more because I am going through hell. I made a posting myself in the divorce section, but my sister found your post from back in the States and shared it with me. Please tell me how things went!

In 2014, I went through THREE negotiations in Court. My family and friends urged me to NOT sign divorce papers until the custody deal was worked out, so I stuck to my guns and said I wanted to work out seeing my kids, first. Yet at the FOURTH hearing, when the other party walked out of the negotiations, saying, “If you don’t sign, you won’t see your kids,” I gave in. I’d not been able to see them in 189 days, theretofore, but even though it would have possibly delayed my situation, I should have remained firm in working out the kids time first.


Hi @LovingKHH,

Just hoping you see this message and can provide an update on your situation? I am in a similar position…

I wouldn’t expect replies from @LovingKHH.
He haven’t been around since 2018… :grandpa:

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Basically she cannot get the divorce unless you agree… You just don’t agree (unless she agrees to join custody) and then her only option would be to take you to court…

Basically, the courts in Taiwan tend to think in the best interests of the kid and not the mom (unlike western courts). So as long as you can prove that you have a stable income, not a heavy drinker and not planning to take your child back to your home country anytime soon (yes you lose points for that as they want you to be stable and they don’t view moving country as being stable). Then you should at the very least be awarded joint custody.

Also… she loses points for being the one who wanted to file for divorce… so…

Let her know how hopeless her situation is and be willing to fight if you need to. Also… don’t worry about your ARC, you can get a JFRC though your kid if you need to! (As long as you have joint custody at the least)

Don’t get caught sending angry texts or anything and be completely calm. The legal system is on your side!


The messages show up…

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Well the upshot is, for 3.5 years, that I fought the good fight in the Kaohsiung Family Court (2014-2017). In a nutshell, all that was perpetrated by my ex-wife in Taiwan, her daddy dearest, and the farcical lawyer they hired to do their dirty work (who was the only one present in nearly 90% of the case hearings for those 3.5 years)–was nonsensical theatrics and unjustified accusations. Court hearing after court hearing, case after case, in the end, I lost everything 100%. In June of 2017, my kids were taken from me 100% by a judge after a mere two hearings–even though for the three-plus years beforehand, a family court judge gave me 20 days in summer, 10 days each winter vacation, and every second and fourth weekend, monthly. And then an appellate-level judge (my appeal case) handed me a similar ruling (i.e., they gave me rights as a father to see my kids, speak with them, have social media connections, receive gifts, etc.). In summary, two family court judges gave me rights (though not full custody–even though I had legitimate evidence the Guardian ad Litem lied in her report), but a final judge issued an absurd verdict in a two-case-hearings-only decision, a judge that was assigned to handle a final finance-related case.

Farce. Sham. Shameful corruption. Egregious ridiculousness. Over-the-top vindictiveness.

The attached screenshot is my ex-wife’s email to me in late 2013, a month into separation. A few months after that, however, when I fought to see my kids (she committed a 189-day parental abduction in 2014), she and her tribe created hell for me.

I left Taiwan in 2017, destroyed, after the last case that took the kids. It has been five years since I last saw, spoke with, been with, held and hugged my kids. They’re now a mere 10- and 13-years of age.


The above email she wrote stated that she would proceed with writing up the divorce agreement (Oct 2013). However, starting in 2014, she claimed repeatedly that I suddenly abandoned the family for no reason, that I left without her understanding why, etc.

No matter the VALID evidence I had from her first-hand emails (saying I was a great father, an excellent daddy, etc.), I was rejected in court after court case.

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[edit just noticed I was responding to the first post from 2016]

Too many examples of this.

There’s two ways of approaching this. Amicably with a 50/50 custody split. Or doing what she is doing and demanding sole custody.

If you go the latter option you need a lawyer that has dealt with a lot of local divorces in which the men got custody of their son/s and the women got the daughters or nothing.

The father getting custody of their son is fairly common in Taiwan. It relates to cultural and familial traditions and expectations.

Having said that as you are the foreigner the court can ask how you intend to allow your child to retain Taiwanese culture (language, art, history, philosophy, understanding of religion etc). A good lawyer would have you prepared for this.

Your major issue is whether you have ARC or APRC. If you’re only on ARC and it is marriage based you lose that when you get divorced.

I’m sorry to hear what happened. Sounds like something fishy went on. It’s when things like this happen that the reputation of Taiwan really does suffer.

Unfortunately there are a lot of Taiwanese women that see their children only as their retirement plan. I’ve heard one literally count up the amount of buxiban and school fees and tell their young child that they owe their mother this money. It’s like a perpetual Ponzi scheme.