These, or de facto, marriages, in other countries, are not officially registered or legalized. They may be recognized in such countries if the couple has lived together and presented themselves as husbands and wives to the outside world for an acceptable period of time. Such marriages are considered valid in those countries but not under Thailand law. Marriage in Thailand is recognized as valid only when registered according to Section 1457 of the Thailand Civil and Commercial Code.
Examples of common-law marriage are those already mentioned, like a couple who have lived together for a socially acceptable number of years as husband and wife in public as in private and those who may have been married through a Buddhist ceremony. These acts do not confer official or legal validity of the marriage or entitle the couple to the rights and benefits of a registered marriage under the said Thai law. Even a prenuptial agreement does not protect the separate assets of either party unless it is entered into before a registered marriage. And same-sex marriages are not recognized.
The Marriage Law in Thailand
Two persons who wish to contract a valid or legal marriage in Thailand should register in accordance with Section 1457 on the Civil and Commercial Code of the laws of Thailand. Section 1458 requires that the man and the woman take each other as husband and wife and declare this agreement before the Registrar who will record the agreement.
Only such a registered marriage is recognized as legal and valid and thus creates or entitles the parties to the rights, duties, and responsibilities as a validly married couple under the Thai family law.
Valid marriages in Thailand can be terminated only through a similarly valid formal divorce procedure. And as earlier mentioned, the assets of either party or both may be protected by a prenuptial agreement before the marriage is registered. This agreement will protect such assets in case of divorce and a division of such assets.
Benefits of a Valid Thai Marriage
The Family Law of Thailand covers the entire span of family life, such as marriage, divorce, property, adoption, parenting and succession and inheritance. Books 5 and 6 of the Civil Code specifically contain and describe these provisions in a comprehensive and systematic way. Common-law marriages and marriages performed under Buddhist ceremonies are not covered by these laws or protected by them.
The Thai Family Law secures valid marriages in all respects. It compels the husband and wife to live with each other or to cohabit, to support each other according to their respective resources and to secure judicial remedy in case of problematic situations. In cases when one spouse has a certain physical or mental disease or disorder that endangers the other spouse, he or she can petition the court for a valid separation and support if he or she needs it. Another case is when either spouse has a valid form of incompetence within the purview of marriage, he or she can likewise petition the court for correction or remedy. The court, if it finds the petition of merit, shall appoint a suitable guardian to perform the duty or remedy. Thai law also protects children in a valid marriage. A child born during the marriage or within 310 days even if the marriage is terminated is considered legitimate. |And as a legitimate child, he or she is entitled to all the rights and privileges of a legitimate child.
All agreements against public morals or according to foreign laws entered into before a Thai marriage are considered void in Thailand. Any action that either spouse decides to take during the marriage will be recognized but not when it affects a third party who is acting in good faith.
All properties or assets, belonging to a husband or wife, except or unless set aside as sin suan tua, are considered sin sumros. These two types must be differentiated. Sin Suan Tua consists of properties exclusive to the spouse before the marriage. These include personal possessions, such as clothes, personal effects, tools used by him or her in the exercise of his or her separate profession, and other assets acquired or received even during the marriage but through will or as gifts. Other properties or assets for which sin suan tua has been exchanged or acquired through a sale shall also be considered sin suan tua. The spouse who owns such properties shall be their manager.
Sin Somros, in contrast, consists of all assets or properties acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This is a benefit of a valid marriage in Thailand. These properties or assets may be acquired through a will or as gifts or as fruits of the sin suan tua of either of them. Either spouse may apply to have his or her name entered in the property documents as a co-owner. As such, they become joint managers. As such, they share the same duties, rights, and privileges over the assets or properties, such as selling, exchanging, mortgaging, renting out, entering into disputes and other acts. If only one of them performs any of these acts, he or she should secure the written permission of the other. If the marriage is terminated, all debts incurred shall be charged to both of them.
As can be gleaned from both the behavior of the Thais and their law, they are strongly in favor of family stability. This explains why only a negligible number enters into common-law marriages and why the law extends protection and promotion of valid or registered marriage in Thailand. It also refuses the recognition of same-sex marriages. Validly married couples are assured of protection and support by their laws as to their rights, duties and privileges and ownership of assets and properties.
If you need help in legally registering your marriage in Thailand, please contact Siam Legal International.