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Posts Tagged ‘Thai MArriage Registration’

27th November 2009

In the United States of America it is often necessary to obtain a marriage license before getting married. For those living in Thailand marriage can be a major issue and a commonly asked question is: do I need a marriage license before my Thai fiancee and I can execute a legal marriage in the Kingdom. Strictly speaking, a marriage license is not necessary, but there are certain formalities that must be met before a couple can be legally wed in Thailand.

In cases where a Thai wishes to marry a Thai, the process is relatively simple because the couple must simply go to their local Amphur office (also known as an Amphoe office or Civil Registrar’s office). Once the couple arrives at the Amphur they must present their Thai Identification cards and a marriage can be registered relatively quickly.

In cases where a Thai Citizen wishes to marry a foreigner (also known as a Farang in the Thai language), the requirements are somewhat more stringent. This is due to the fact that the foreign national must prove up his or her single status. This is usually done by traveling to the foreign national’s Embassy or Consulate. Generally, an Embassy or Consulate can provide documentation that proves the applicant is legally free to marry. For American Citizens, such documentation can be obtained at the American Citizen Services section of the United States Embassy in Bangkok or the US Consulate in Chiang Mai. Once this documentation is obtained it must be translated and legalized before the Amphur will accept it for marriage registration purposes.

Occasionally, two foreign nationals seek to register a Thai marriage. In cases such as this the couple must obtain the previously mentioned documentation proving single status. In a case where both parties are of different nationality, then different procedures may be required as two separate Embassies must be contacted. The requirements for obtaining documentation for a marriage in Thailand are not uniform. Each Embassy has its own protocols regarding what type of documentation it will issue and what supporting documentation must be submitted before the Embassy will certify an applicant as legally free to marry. With that in mind, those interested in registering a Thai marriage should learn what their Embassy requires to issue a single status affidavit.

To sum up, although Thai officials do not require a marriage license before a marriage will be registered, they do require that the parties prove that they are both free to marry. Proving this can be difficult for some foreign nationals as each Embassy has their own rules for issuing affidavits of single status.

On a related note, those wishing to execute a Thai prenup should register it and the marriage simultaneously. Otherwise, the Thai courts may later refuse to recognize the agreement in the event of divorce.

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22nd November 2009

In many ways, the laws of the Kingdom of Thailand and those of the United States of America are very similar, but in some ways these two systems are extremely different. For example, the Kingdom of Thailand has a Civil Registrar’s office also known as an Amphur office, or Amphoe Office, in Thai. These offices act as repositories of vital statistics of those living  in the Kingdom. They are important because one must register many official documents with this office in order to be provided certain legal protections. A common example of the duties associated with the Amphur office are those associated with a Thai marriage registration. An Amphur can register a Thai marriage in a very short period of time compared to jurisdictions in the United States of America. In some cases, this could also be said about Thai divorces. If a couple has decided to simply divorce by consent, then it is relatively simple to register the divorce in Thailand. However, if the divorce is contested, then there may be problems executing a marital dissolution quickly. In a slightly different situation, if one of the parties to the marriage cannot be found, then it may be difficult to register a divorce because the Amphur office requires that both parties be present when the divorce is registered.

Assuming one must use the courts to dissolve the marriage, the Thai legal system treats divorce similar to the “fault” based system employed by some jurisdictions in the United States. A “fault” divorce system compels the parties to show cause as to why the marriage should be dissolved. The unfortunate consequence of this system is the fact that “fault” divorces take a substantially longer period of time to complete compared to the “no fault” system. The reason for the delay is due, in part, to the large case load of most Thai courts. However, once the Thai court has entered a judgment of marital dissolution, the case is not over. Instead, the divorce judgment must still be registered at the Amphur office.

Registration of Thai divorces at a local Amphur office is somewhat akin to having the Clerk of a “common law” Court record the divorce judgment. This puts the jurisdiction on notice that the dissolution has occurred. The major difference is the fact that a clerk is generally in the same courthouse as the Judge who executed the marital dissolution. In Thailand, one must proceed to a wholly different office, the Amphur, in order to finalize the divorce by having the Amphur officer record the dissolution.

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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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17th June 2009

Information swirling around the internet regarding prenuptial agreements can be less than helpful or downright dangerous. One thing to bear in mind is the fact that writing one’s own prenuptial agreement is generally not a wise idea because an attorney understands the legal implications of certain language used in the agreement. Someone without legal training might be unaware of the consequences involved when using or omitting certain key phrases.

There is a rather common misconception that prenuptial agreements will be held inviolate by the courts. This is frankly not true. There are situations where a court will throw out a prenuptial agreement. For this reason, it may be doubly important that professional legal counsel be retained in order to forestall a judicial nullification of an otherwise duly formalized prenuptial agreement.

A misconception of less prevalence in the United States, but perhaps more prevalent in the Kingdom of Thailand is the idea that prenuptial agreements will be automatically thrown out of court. This belief is especially widespread among the British expatriate community in Thailand. Although it is true that British Courts take a dim view regarding prenuptial agreements, there are some instances of the court taking them into account when dividing marital property, but as a rule, they are not generally recognized. That being said, Thai courts will recognize a duly formalized prenuptial agreement and for this reason it is probably prudent for the expat with assets that he wishes to protect in Thailand to register a prenuptial agreement at the time of the Thailand Marriage Registration.

Some people believe that prenuptial agreements can make stipulations regarding child custody. It is an almost universal fact that prenuptial agreements that make provisions for child custody, particularly with regard to as-yet unborn children, will be thrown out of court, because it is the Court’s duty to make decisions regarding the child based upon the best interests of that child.

In most jurisdictions in the United States provisions can be made that will limit spousal maintenance should their be a dissolution. In any case involving the waiver of maintenance rights, it is prudent to have an independent attorney explain the agreement to the non-drafting fiancee. This forestalls the agreement being thrown out because the fiancee was ignorant of the agreements provisions at the time she signed it. Further it may be wise, depending upon the situation, to have the prenuptial agreement signed ad then let an interval of time pass before Thai marriage registration.

(Please be on notice: this post is not a satisfactory substitute for competent legal advice from an attorney. No attorney-client relationship is created between author and reader.)

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