The number of foreigners moving to Thailand seems to be growing every year. For many foreign nationals, they come to Thailand for a short visit then fall in love with the country. For others it was not the country but it was a specific person that they found that has kept them in the country. Whether the new couple has decided to live in Thailand or move overseas, they usually begin their lives together in matrimony.
What are the laws in regards to engagement and marriage in Thailand?
An engagement is not required to get married but it is custom and Thai law covers the particulars of the engagement and dowry. There are two types of dowry. An engagement is not valid until the man gives or transfer property to the woman which is called the Khongman.
The man can also give property to the woman’s parents in return for the woman agreeing to marry which is called the Sinsod. If the woman causes the marriage to not take place, the man can request the return of the Khongman and Sinsod. An accepted engagement however does not force the woman or the man to marry each other. There cannot be an agreement for one party to pay a penalty if the marriage does not occur.
If there is an asset imbalance where one party is entering into the marriage with a larger financial assets than the other party, a premarital agreement should be considered. A prenuptial agreement is an agreement between the couple summarizing their personal assets and liabilities before marriage and outlining the property division in case of a breakup.
A prenuptial agreement must be in writing, signed and witnessed by two witnesses, and registered at the local provincial office (Amphur) before the marriage registration. A prenuptial agreement cannot be altered except with authorization of a court.
A religious marriage ceremony in Thailand is not a legal marriage. Thailand is a civil law country that requires couples to register their marriage with the local Amphur. The documents required for marriage registration is different for a foreigner/Thai couple versus a Thai couple.
Foreigners who want to marry in Thailand must submit proof of the eligibility to get married. Since a Thai’s marriage history is recorded, a Thai national is not required to submit an affidavit of the ability to marry. Most foreign nationals can obtain an affidavit at their local embassy or consulate.
The affidavit must be executed at the consulate, translated into Thai, and then legalized at the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is no minimum period of stay in Thailand required before a marriage can take place.
The minimum age for marriage in Thailand is seventeen. If either one of the marrying couple is under 20 years old, the Ampur will require written consent of the marriage from the parents. If either one of the couple has been previously married, they will need to submit an original, government issued document showing that the previous marriage has been terminated. The documents could be in the form of a death certificate, divorce certificate, or court annulment.
Foreign nationals have to bring their original passport, 2 copies of their passport, copies of the entry visa, authenticated affidavit of the freedom to marry with copies, and original proof of the termination of previous marriages with copies. The Thai national will have to submit their Thai identification card and house registration with copies. All non-Thai documents need to be translated into Thai. A marriage registered in Thailand is legally binding and is generally recognized all over the world.
Property obtained prior to the marriage, property that is used for personal use, or property acquired as a gift or by will is considered separate party of the husband or wife. Property acquired during the marriage, by gift or will to the married couple, and fruits from separate property are considered marital property.
The couple can designate separate property and marital property prior to the marriage through a properly prepared and filed premarital agreement.
If you are a foreign national, a marriage in Thailand is generally recognized all over the world unless it comes in conflict with local laws. Some countries allow same sex marriages and some countries will not recognize them. Other countries allow polygamous marriages while other nations outlaw them.
There are also differences in the age of consent and the degree of family relationships in varying nation’s marital laws. It is best to review the applicable laws and regulations for both countries before deciding to get married. In addition, it is important not to be rush into a marriage without considering the consequences of a break up.
The information contained in this article is general in nature. It does not constitute legal advice for any specific person or situation. If there are any general legal topics that a reader would like covered, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our licensed Thai lawyers at Siam Legal International in Bangkok have valuable knowledge in dealing with government agencies in Thailand, and this experience is of great importance when dealing with Thai legal cases and investigative service.