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Ask Drew Noyes, Definition of Marriage in Thailand

Drew Noyes 03.03.2011 00:09
Managing Director of PAPPA Co., Ltd. Law Office Drew Noyes.

Managing Director of PAPPA Co., Ltd. Law Office Drew Noyes.

Hello Drew, I got your email contact address from your newspaper (very good read btw) and would like your expert advice. My Thai girlfriend and I had a Thai wedding ceremony in her village about 8 years ago but we are not legally married - i.e. not registered at any Amphur. Just had the Thai wedding ceremony only.

We have been together for nearly 10 years in total and lived together in my condo for the last 8 years. We have no children at all.

As of now there is no problem, but I realise not all things last a lifetime and either party may decide it's no longer working down the road, so this is a request to just get myself better informed and aware.

I would like to know what would happen if we were ever to split up after such a long relationship, which is akin to a common law partnership in the West, I guess. What, if any, obligations or legal requirements might be sought from me were we ever to go our separate ways?

In that circumstance I am sure I would want to financially help her, but I would not want to do that and then find out later that I was being legally forced to additional payments, provisions or obligations - what is the law/rules in this regard please?

Thanks for taking the time to reply

Kind regards

Mark, UK

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your fine question. This is a common question and deserves a full answer. Thailand has a system of possible multiple, concurrent wives, with only one, if any, being the “Legal” wife, call Mia Luaeng, or main wife.

Since you were not legally married to another woman at the time the parents and the village have reasonable expectation that you consider her your wife and will someday legalize the marriage by registering the marriage at a District Office, or Amphur, like the Banglamung District Office on Sukhumvit Highway in Pattaya.

Because of this under the Thailand Civil and Commercial Code, Book V, Family, Title 1 Marriage, Chapter 1 Betrothal, Section 1437 states, “Betrothal is not valid until the man gives or transfers property which is Khongman (stuff you give the intended wife) to the woman as evidence the marriage will take place.”

So if you gave the usual gold and money to her you are betrothed.

However, and this is what you and all the other Pattaya Times readers are waiting to hear, Section 1438 goes on to clarify, “ Betrothal does NOT give rise to an action for compulsory performance of the marriage…”

In other words, you are not obligated to marry her.  If you do not marry her and she asks for compensation the most she can expect to receive is what you gave her (Khongman) and what you gave her parents (called Sinsod). i.e. buffaloes, money, a house or repairs to the family house, motorcycles, etc.

But the provision that sums it all up is Section 1458 “ A marriage can only take place if the man and woman agree to take each other as husband and wife, (as you did in the wedding party upcountry), AND such agreement must be declared publicly before the Registrar in order to have it recorded by the Registrar.”

The added security on your part is to be legally married in Thailand, all foreigners must show proof of their “Single” status received from the Embassy of the country of their passport issuance and certified by the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. Without this certified paperwork no legal marriage can take place.

Since no property is in her name, there can be no fight over ownership. There are no children so no child support is necessary. There is no alimony payable since the marriage is not legalized.

Thank you again Mark for your excellent question.

Best wishes to a long and happy life with her if that is your destiny.


Drew Noyes

Managing Director

PAPPA Co., Ltd. Law Office

Anyone wishing to ask a legal question in the Pattaya Times concerning Thai law or Thai Immigration please send your request by email to  Please include your first name or if you want your last name published include it also. We would like you to add your nationality, too. Like Mark from UK for example.

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