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Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Thailand?

Transcript of the above video:

In this video, we're going to be discussing marriage specifically. It's come up a couple of times in recent days. I've had clients or people specifically mention the notion of common-law marriage and ask about it in the context of Thailand. Well if you take nothing else away from this video, take this one thing away from it - there is no notion of common-law marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand and there is no notion that's particularly even close to it.

So what is common-law marriage? Well first of all, it's a notion that was created under the common law which is mostly an Anglo/American creation. Anglo-American jurisprudence common-law marriage basically occurs at the point of which a couple engages in an open and notorious relationship. And once they’re cohabiting and they do so first significant period of time that will result in a later court possibly making a finding that they were de facto married. In fact, married a.k.a. common-law marriage it's interesting to note that there are a lot of misconceptions with respect to common-law marriage per se. Most notably that someone can just sort of adjudicate themselves as common-law married.

In fact common-law marriages most of the time come up in matters pertaining to divorce or inheritance and they only are determined by a court sort of after the fact of their, for lack of a better term, creation. What am I talking about here? Well after cohabiting together for 25 years without celebrating a formal marriage, one party to a common-law marriage will pass away without leaving a will and a court will make an adjudication that that couple wasn't that married at common law for purposes of dividing the estate. That's just one example. There are many others that where this kind of thing could come up.

Thailand does not utilize the common law. I've talked about this at length in other videos on this channel. I recommend checking those out but to take nothing else away from this video, Thailand uses a civil law system. They utilize a registration system for marriages. Marriages are registered at a khet office or at amphur office also known as a civil registrar's office and if a marriage is not in fact registered in one of these offices for purposes of Thai law, that marriage is not legally recognized. Also note that Thailand allows marriage registration at consulates and embassies outside of the Kingdom of Thailand.

There are certain legal complications that may arise with respect to those pertaining to the International or American legal jurisprudence context. There's a specific video on this channel regarding those issues but take note of the fact that Thailand uses a marriage registration system and if a couple has not in fact registered their marriage, then pursuant to Thai law they are not going to be considered legally married. Again in this jurisdiction that's notwithstanding having a ceremony openly and notoriously acting as if a couple is married calling each other husband and wife, within this jurisdiction that is not enough to create a marriage per Thai statutory law. It is required that a marriage be registered in the Kingdom in order to be considered legally binding.

So the thing to take away from this video is Thailand does not utilize anything remotely close to the common law legal definition of common-law marriage and in fact, an overt marriage registration must be undertaken. All formalities must be adhered to and the registration must be completed in order for a marriage to be considered legal under Thai law. Again, I am an American attorney. I'm not a Thai attorney. This information was imparted to me from Thai attorneys and we have Thai attorneys on staff who deal with family law on marriage registration on routine basis. They are happy to assist in these matters and you know oftentimes, marriages that are registered here in Thailand are often used as the basis for applying for U.S. marriage visa benefits for those interested in learning about U.S. immigration and in a marriage context we recommend checking out the various videos on this channel with respect to those topics.