Thai Family Law: Marriage Registration

The following article discusses Thai Marriage Registration for foreign nationals in the Kingdom of Thailand.

For those readers who are familiar with the English “Common Law” system, the idea of marriage registration is somewhat difficult to fully grasp at first glance. However, from the family law point of view there are many similarities between Thailand’s “civil law” system and a “common law” system such as that of the USA. However, a notable difference between the Thai system and the “common law” system is the absence of an idea of “common law marriage”. In nations such as the United States of America there are states which recognize “common law marriage”. A “common law marriage” is basically a creation of the Court whereby a judge (or panel of judges) finds that a couple is legally married notwithstanding the fact that they did not solemnize or legalize their marriage.

In Thailand, in order for a marriage to be considered legal both parties must appear before a civil registrar and register their marriage. As “common law marriage” is not recognized in Thailand, even a couple that openly cohabits for a substantial period of time will likely be found to be unmarried. Furthermore, as the doctrine of equity is virtually absent in Thai jurisprudence, there is often no equitable recourse for either party in an unregistered marriage. Therefore, regardless of the fact that a couple has had a marriage ceremony and been accepted as married by the community, the Court is unlikely to grant either party any type of compensation should the unregistered marriage dissolve as the Court would likely not recognize the existence of a legal marriage in the first place.

These notions are quite significant for those alien nationals hoping to marry in Thailand. For example, if a couple comes to the Kingdom of Thailand and performs a marriage ceremony with all customary solemnization, the marriage itself may still be considered unregistered if the couple does not execute a marriage registration. This is important to note for those couples from other countries because failure to actually register a marriage could result in the couple’s home country, or countries, not recognizing the legal union.

Of possible further interest to couples who are not Thai nationals is the difficulty of registering a divorce in Thailand if the marriage is legally registered initially, but later dissolves. In the Kingdom of Thailand, it may be somewhat difficult to find a Court that will accept jurisdiction for purposes of granting a divorce if neither party to the marriage is registered on a Tabien Baan (Thai House Registration) within the land borders of Thailand, or if one of the parties is not available for personal service of process in Thailand. For all of the above reasons, those foreign national’s wishing to marry in Thailand should seek legal advice prior to marriage in Thailand so as to avoid possible legal difficulties at a later date.


About the Author:
Ben Hart is an American lawyer, the International Director of White & Hart Ltd., and Managing Director of Integrity Legal (Thailand) Co. Ltd. To contact please call 1-877-231-7533, +66 (0)2-266-3698, +44 203-002-3837, or info@integrity-legal.com. See them on the Web at: US fiance visa or Thai Prenuptial Agreements .
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