With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it seems the perfect opportunity to look at romantic relationships between Thais and foreigners (farang). For most single, usually, men, along with those who are perhaps not so single, falling in love with a local has almost become the norm. The Thai’s natural, beauty and charm along with the fact that they are often more accommodating than many western women, gives them an instant appeal.
However, not all relationships which start rosy continue that way. It should be stressed that this can be the fault of either party or just drifting apart and we are certainly not looking to apportion any blame, just examine the facts. Legally, marrying a Thai has become increasingly common whereas before there was more a tendency to choose a “village wedding” rather than make a legally binding contract. In this article, we focus more on marriage but, many of the points, for example, buying land together, still apply regardless of if you are married or not.
Visas and Ownership of Land
For many westerners, marriage may seem like the perfect solution for staying in the country long-term. However, for a Thai Marriage Visa, while the financial requirements aren’t as strict, simply being married is no guarantee that you will be able to stay in the country for an unlimited amount of time. As a result, you should be aware that any assets you have should be protected should you be forced, for whatever reason, to leave the country at short notice.
It is also worth touching on the point that foreigners CANNOT own land in their own name in Thailand. Essentially, if you purchase land either in Pattaya or somewhere “upcountry” and you put it in your wife’s name, should you get divorced, you will have no claim to the land unless you have taken out a long-term lease, something we will discuss next.
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Leases and Thai Law
It should be stressed that in no circumstances will the foreigner have any right to land in Thailand. Indeed, when the foreigner in the relationship purchases a piece of land, they are required, under Thai law, to sign away all rights, declaring that they have no future rights to the land and it is the ownership of the Thai.
The only way that a foreigner has any right over the land whatsoever is if the Thai partner leases the foreigner the house (not the land) on a 30 year, renewable lease. While this certainly doesn’t remove the problem, it gives the foreigner some rights that could be used for more amicable negotiations. Whether this happens in practice will be wholly down to the parties involved in the discussions.
Rights Regarding Personal Property in a Thai Marriage
Any personal property that is owned before marriage remains the private property of that individual even after marriage. For instance, if the foreign husband owned a condo in Pattaya is his own name that would remain his and is the Thai wife owned a farm in Isaan that would remain her property. You can make the property jointly owned during the marriage, which can help to limit confusion for succession purposes. Alternatively, you could draw up a Last Will and Testament.
The Thai law states:
Section 1471: (Civil and Commercial Code): “Personal property (Sin Suan Tua) consists of: (1) property belonging to either spouse before marriage, (2) property for personal use, dress or ornament suitable for station in life, or tools necessary for carrying on the profession of either spouse, (3) property acquired by either spouse during marriage through a will or gift.”
Section 1472: “As regards to Sin Suan Tua (personal property), if it has been exchanged to other property, another property has been bought or money has been acquired from selling it, such other property or money acquired shall be Sin Suan Tua. Where the Sin Suan Tua has been totally or partly destroyed but replaced by other property or the money, such other property shall be Sin Suan Tua.”
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Property that is acquired during the marriage becomes joint property unless it is expressly stated otherwise and is called “Sin Somros”. Any inheritance does NOT become marital property unless explicitly stated and becomes the property of the person receiving the inheritance. In the case of a divorce, under Thai law, your Thai wife would not be entitled to any of the inheritance you receive in your home country, although Thai lawyers may try to chase this.
If you still have some doubts about your rights should things go wrong in your marriage to your Thai wife, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a document that is signed before entering into a marriage. It is effectively a financial plan regarding assets during and after marriage (should you divorce). They are commonly used by partners who have substantial assets either in Thailand or abroad. It is possible to have a postnuptial agreement, but a prenuptial agreement carries far more weight in Thai law.
But you may also consider offering to your partner a nice commercial
What is Required for a Prenuptial Agreement in Thailand?
For a prenuptial agreement to valid and enforceable under Thailand law, some extremely strict criteria should be met. If you don’t comply with ALL of these aspects, it is possible that your assets won’t be protected, especially if your Thai wife has a very shrewd Divorce Lawyer. For it to be enforceable, it must:
- It needs to be completed in writing on or before the date that your marriage is legally registered
- It needs to be in writing and signed by both parties
- Two witnesses of “respected standing” need to be present at the time of signing. They also need to sign and date the document
- The prenuptial agreement should be attached to the marriage certificate at the Amphur where the marriage is registered
A divorce is not something that any couple wants, but, sadly, it is increasingly common. Divorce in Thailand can take just a matter of hours, so it is advisable to make sure you know your rights and cover yourself should anything go wrong. We would always recommend speaking to a specialist lawyer independently prior to getting legally married in Thailand.