Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thai Marriage’

27th December 2016

In an interesting recent turn of events, it appears that a court in the USA has recognized a Thai judgment pertaining to child support obligations of a man who apparently fathered triplets in the Kingdom of Thailand. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website of the Chicago Law Bulletin:

A man who fathered triplets through assisted conception methods in Thailand must financially support them from the U.S. after a Cook County judge properly recognized the foreign court’s parentage judgment, a state appeals panel ruled…The father — identified as [NAME REDACTED]. in the panel’s unpublished order — argued the absence of a legal marriage between him and the children’s mother — identified as [NAME REDACTED]. — makes him nothing more than a sperm donor who is entitled to protection from such judgments through the state’s Parentage Act. But the 1st District Appellate Court affirmed Cook County Circuit Judge Jeanne R. Cleveland Bernstein’s order to enroll the foreign judgment, finding it is not contrary to Illinois public policy and he had a full opportunity to defend his case in Thailand.

Readers of this blog are strongly encouraged to click on the link above to read the article in full as this is something of an anomaly in Thai-American legal discourse. As Thailand and the USA are not bound legally by more than the US-Thai Treaty of Amity there is not a framework for any sort of automatic reciprocal recognition of court judgments in either country. Therefore, a judgment made in one country with respect to parentage, custody, or support of a child (or virtually any matter) will not necessarily be deemed enforceable by courts in the other country. What makes this case notable (and there are many aspects of this case which are very interesting hence the reason the reader is encouraged to read the full article) is due to the fact that the trial court in the USA found the Thai judgment to be reasonable and therefore recognized said judgment by determining it had comity and thereafter enrolling the terms of the judgment as a judgment of the Illinois Court. Moreover, the appellate court seems to have agreed with the determination of the trial court and found that the extension of comity and the enrolling of the foreign judgment as a judgment of the Illinois Courts was proper and upheld the lower court’s decision.

It was noteworthy that the court cited the fact that the American in question had an opportunity to defend his case in the Thai system and that such opportunity (along with other factors) resulted in the court finding that the foreign judgment was not contrary to State policy.

Even within the USA, interstate family law matters can be complex, but in an international context such matters can be vexing to a degree that borders upon indiscernible. Therefore, the aforementioned case should be analyzed especially in our increasingly interconnected world as this case may be a sign of things to come.

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10th November 2009

A common question asked by many foreign men in Thailand: does the law require that I pay a sinsot (also known as a sinsod, sin sot, sin sod, or in Thai: สินสอด) prior to marriage? The short answer to this question: No. However, an explanation of the cultural importance of the Sinsot may be beneficial in understanding both Thai marriage custom and the cultural underpinnings of marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand.

A Sinsot can best be described as a dowry given by a Thai (or foreign) man to a Thai lady prior to marriage. Generally, the groom-to-be will negotiate with his future father-in-law, or some surrogate if the Thai fiancee’s father is unavailable, regarding the amount of the dowry. In many Thai weddings, the Sinsot is put on display at the wedding ceremony, often the Sinsot will include jewelery or other items of value. In some cases, the parents keep the Sinsot. While in other families it is given to the daughter as a kind of insurance in the event a marital dissolution should occur. In still other situations, the Sinsot is returned to the groom after the wedding ceremony is at an end. Finally, it should be noted that some Thai families do not uphold the Sinsot tradition.

Some have argued that the Sinsot tradition is not deeply embedded in Thai culture, but is simply an effort by Thai in-laws to get money out of a foreign husband. This author cannot speak to that assertion, but the fact remains that in some cases Thai fiances will transfer a Sinot to a Thai fiancee’s family.

Under Thai law, there is no legal requirement that a Sinsot be transferred before a marriage can be registered. A couple can register a marriage at a local Amphur office (Civil Registry) by simply showing up and providing the proper documentation.

However, the practice of remitting a Sinsot seems to be a major aspect of the Thai customary wedding ceremony. Thai people will often have a marriage ceremony without getting the marriage registered. As Thailand does not specifically recognize anything akin to a common law marriage, it is possible that a foreign fiance could pay a Sinsot without legally marrying the Thai fiancee. In many cases involving American fiances marrying Thais, a customary wedding ceremony is often performed without registering the marriage. This allows the couple to remain legally single and therefore eligible to apply for a K1 visa, which is a fiance visa used to travel to the USA for the purpose of executing a legally binding marriage.

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28th October 2009

In Thailand, the method of executing a valid marriage is very different from the United States or other common law jurisdictions. A marriage registration is usually conducted at a local Amphur office (Amphoe office). In cases involving a Thai national marrying another Thai national, the process is very straightforward as the couple need only produce their identity documentation and house registration. However, in cases involving a foreigner and a Thai national, the foreigner must produce a great deal of documentation to prove that he or she is unmarried as well as legally free to marry. Depending upon the person’s home country, some or all of this documentation can be obtained either at the Embassy in Thailand or at offices in the person’s home country.

Two foreigners can also execute a lawful marriage in Thailand, but the registration of the marriage could take more time and require the filing of more documentation as neither of the prospective registrants are Thai citizens. Often, this situation has an easy solution as both parties deal with their home government which provides documentation proving that the prospective registrant is unwed and free to marry. In the case of Myanmar (Burma) this is not necessarily true.

Under the laws of the Union of Myanmar heavy restrictions are placed upon Burmese women who opt to marry non-Burmese people. One aspect of these restrictions that manifests itself often in US Immigration matters is the reluctance or refusal of the Burmese government to issue passports to female Burmese nationals seeking to marry a US Citizen either after issuance of a K1 visa or before issuance of a K3 visa or CR1 visa. The Burmese government’s intransience in these matters often results in difficult Immigration cases as the American government often requires a valid passport before a visa will be issued to a non-US citizen.

In Thai marriage registration cases, a similar problem arises as the Burmese (Myanmar) government, through the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, this post often refuses to issue affidavits showing the Burmese national as single and free to marry. Amphurs in Thailand require this document before they will execute a marriage between a Thai or a foreigner and a Burmese national. Therefore, failure to obtain this document results in an inability to marry in the Kingdom. Further, the execution of a marriage in Burma (Myanmar) is likely more difficult due to the statutory restrictions imposed upon Burmese women seeking to marry foreign men.

In situations such as this, it may be necessary to plan ahead and obtain passports and other documentation long before it may ever be necessary. Contacting a Bangkok lawyer or US Immigration lawyer may be beneficial as either of these professionals could advise about solutions to such problems.

One should note that Thai prenuptial agreements can be drafted for a marriage in Thailand, but the agreement must be registered simultaneously with the marriage in order for the agreement to be valid in the Kingdom.

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30th September 2009

Divorce in Thailand

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Few people wish to discuss what will happen should a marriage breakdown, but unfortunately divorce is an issue that many people confront at least once in their lifetime. With this in mind, those living in Thailand researching the issue may be surprised to learn that divorce in Thailand can be quite different when compared against divorce procedures in common law countries.

One of the major differences between divorce procedure in Thailand and divorce procedure in the United States of America is the presence of an Amphur office. The Amphur office is the civil registrar for vital information pertaining to the citizens and permanent residents of Thailand as well as foreign visitors in the Kingdom. Amphur officers are empowered with the authority to execute legally binding marriages, change names, record, births, record divorces, as well as other functions. In Thailand marriage registration usually involves a trip to the Amphur’s office to have the marriage legalized. In many divorce cases in Thailand, the converse is true for the dissolution of a marriage. Provided that there are no major disagreements between the parties, a sort of “no contest” divorce can be easily granted at the local Amphur office. However,  should the parties have any type of disagreement, then a protracted divorce proceeding must occur in the Thai court system.

An immediate issue surrounding the issuance of an Amphur divorce is: will the United States recognize the divorce as binding? Quite simply: Yes. A divorce registered at an Amphur office is considered legally binding for US purposes. This is particularly important in K1 visa cases, as a common question from prospective US Citizen petitioners is: “what do they mean my Thai fiancee must be legally free to marry?” This means that they need to be single, divorced,  or their prior spouse must be deceased. The United States government considers a Thai Divorce, granted in Thailand, valid.

Another issue ancillary to Thai divorce is that of a prenuptial agreement. Under Thai law, a prenuptial agreement must be recorded contemporaneously along with the recording of the Thai marriage. Once properly recorded, the prenuptial agreement will be the touchstone for dividing marital assets in Thailand.

In cases where a Thai divorce cannot be executed directly through the Amphur office it may be necessary to file the divorce action in the Thai courts and upon final judgment of dissolution, the couple must present the judgment to the Amphur for registration.

Another issue to think of when contemplating a Thai divorce is the issue of how one’s property will be divided post -divorce pursuant to a Thai will. For the sake of avoiding prolonged probate, it may be wise to change ones Thai will in tandem with the divorce registration.

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12th August 2009

Many people get married in Thailand each year. As a result, one of the most common questions received from clients and potential clients involves foreign recognition of a Thai marriage.  Thailand is not a common law system and therefore, the idea of common law marriage is not a concept upheld by courts in the Kingdom of Thailand. That being said, even though Thailand is a civil law system “customary or religious” marriages are still quite commonplace. This is probably due to the fact that marriage registration can be somewhat difficult, particularly for those who have never dealt with the Thai legal system and bureaucracy in the past.

In Thailand, marriages are registered at the local Amphur office. This office is kind of a combination of continual census taker and what in the American system is called a “court clerk.” The Amphur keeps records of the vital statistics of those living within that office’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the Amphur will record name changes, marriages, births, and deaths in Thailand. It is possible for two non-Thais to marry in Thailand. That being said, each office has their own internal protocol. Therefore, it may be wise to contact an attorney in order to assist with the Thai marriage registration process.

Once a Thai marriage is registered the question is: will the United States of America recognize the union. Put simply, yes. According to the website of the US Embassy Thailand, in cases involving marriages legalized in the Kingdom, “the United States does recognize the validity of such a marriage.” This is a critical question particularly in the context of USA visas. If a couple’s marriage is not recognized by the United States, then a visa application for a CR1 visa or a K3 marriage visa would likely be rejected because the couple does not meet the marriage requirement for visa issuance. Also, a couple who wishes to apply for a k1 fiance visa may create a situation where the application gets rejected because the couple got married in Thailand thinking it would not be recognized in the USA.  In that scenario, USCIS would be compelled to reject the application because the requirement is “intent to marry,” and not actual marriage.

One interesting side note regarding Thai marriage registration deals with prenuptial agreements. In Thailand, the prenuptial agreement is actually registered with the marriage and in a way is incorporated into the marital agreement at the time of registration at the Amphur. For more on this issue please see Thai prenuptial agreement

To sum up, marriages properly executed in Thailand will be viewed as valid in the United States and for purposes of obtaining a US visa or other Immigration benefits. Therefore, marriage in Thailand is not something that should be taken lightly. When thinking of entering into a marriage in Thailand keep in mind that the marriage will be treated just the same as if it had been conducted in the United States.

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