Legally Speaking About Thai Wives & Farang Husbands
“Only Fools Rush In”
By Ponthep Werachon
Updated 11th APRIL 2007

“Papa John” is a macho guy. He has been married to a Thai lady under the draconian condition that he would be a leader of a family, whereby all the important matters would require only his decision. After 20 years of marriage, John finds out that he has never made any single decision in his family, because all matters are small, requiring only the decision of his wife or even sometimes just his daughter”

Most who will read this article are foreigners having a Thai wife, who can be either be a common law or legitimate wife and husband. As Shakespeare said “Rose in any other name just smells sweet”, we can say that sentimentally, both categories are the same but legally may be different. This article will concern only the legal aspect.

Marriage under Thai laws must be officially registered with either the District Office or the Royal Thai Consulate. Even you have a huge religious ceremony and close Walking Street for your wedding party, it will not be legally effective. However, the marriage under the laws of other countries is also recognized or acknowledged by Thai law. The recognition or acknowledgement of the overseas marriage can be made in a District Office in Thailand or Royal Thai Consulate.

The Thai family law is quite secular. There is no discrimination between Thai and foreigner. The maternity always deserves favor in the eyes of law. Thai laws do not recognize a homosexual marriage. However, they can apply the principle of life partner. Homosexuality is not culturally taboo or legally punishable.

The legitimate wife and husband are the same person with the same pocket under Thai laws, whereby they will have common ownership of all properties acquired during the marriage, which is called “Sin Somros” (Common Properties). That is to say, you have to share the ownership of all properties with your Thai wife even you work as a CEO in a multinational company, whereas your wife may only do the house work.  The property acquired by either spouse during the marriage will be the private property of such spouse only in case it is acquired from a third party by gift or testament without the writing declaration that it will be the common property. The fruits of the private property will become the common property.

The legitimate husband and wife shall jointly manage the common property for important matters.

“Every wife holds the future for her husband”. The legitimate wife and husband are jointly liable for debts during the marriage in connection with the proper management of household affairs and maintenance of the children for medical and educational expenses or in connection with the common property or business carried in common or debts which are ratified by either spouse.

The private property consist of properties acquired before the marriage or properties for personal use, e.g., golf  bag or tool necessary for carrying on occupation or profession or properties acquired during marriage through inheritance or a gift or betrothal property.

Some couples may enter into the “Pre-Marriage Agreement,” that is technically called the “Pre Nuptial Agreement,” and this agreement must be registered with the registrar upon marriage, for the legal arrangement of the properties. However, Thai law strictly requires that any foreign laws cannot be applied in the “Pre Nuptial Agreement.” In addition to this, no clause can be against either public order or good morals.

With regard to land, your wife can own the land under the condition that you and your wife make a joint declaration to the Land Office upon registration of the ownership of land that the money spent for the purchase of the land coming from the pocket of your wife only, and that the land purchased accordingly will be her private property, whereby you may not share it. In case of separation, you may have your golf bag. However, some wise foreign husbands may prove that in fact it was his money, by showing the financial remittance slips from aboard which is always the case. In case of separation, the foreign husband will deem that the joint declaration jointly with the Land Office is the marital agreement during the marriage which can be terminated by either spouse. The foreign husband may petition to the court to dispose of the land by public auction whereby he will share 50% of the proceeds. However, there is no precedence of the Supreme Court. But beware that the wife and foreign husband may then be prosecuted for providing fake information to the Land Department officers. “Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned” can be comparable to a “suicide attack”. For your own safety, you should consult with a Thai lawyer in relation to all of these complex matters which we have mentioned above.

A house or building is legally separated from land, which can be jointly owned by the foreign husband and his wife. They will also be jointly responsible for all debts incurred during marriage, involving their marital lives.

A common law wife and husband may also share the property they jointly own as a life partner; – for example, if “Papa John” cohabits with his Thai lady, without a legal marriage, – (e.g. they may open a restaurant together). Possibly, “Papa John” makes a financial contribution, whereas his sweetheart make only a labor contribution, but all licenses and permits are in the name of his sweetheart. Their relationship is deemed as a partnership under Thai laws, whereby they can go “Dutch” for all that they jointly earn. If “Papa John” does not have a work permit, he may act only investor, but be warned, never even serve even a glass of water to a customer.

The most important issue is their children, who become illegitimate in relation to their fathers, while they are always legitimate children for their mothers, even without the registration of the marriage. Once your child is born in this situation, you should put down your name as the father on the Birth Certificate, and the child may also use your family name.

Afterwards, you should register the legitimacy of your child with the District Office, because for your common wife and your child to gain legitimacy, you may have to go to the Family Court, which locally is situated in Chonburi. In case your child is less than six years old, it is legally deemed that your child is not mature enough to give consent; – in this case, you have to go to the Family Court. With the registration, your child will be your legitimate child, even though you never registered the marriage with your wife. If you register the marriage with your wife after your child is born, the registration for legitimacy is not required because you will impliedly become legitimate father of your child by this subsequent marriage.

Thai people always compare the relationship of their wife and husband like “teeth and tongue,” whereby the teeth sometimes bite the tongue, but not vice versa. In your relationship, please verify with your wife who should be “teeth” and who should be “tongue”.

Most foreign husbands in Pattaya are quite decent and ideal husbands, and most of these senior citizens have worked hard all of their lives, before gathering all their fortune to devote to their new families in Thailand. For them it is not a case of just casual hedonism in beer bars, as most of them are rejuvenated with their new families; – complete with a young wife and kids, the western geriatrician is then definitely obsolete.

Cross cultural marriage creates many challenges for the couples; – linguistic barriers are quite the most common obstacles to clearly understanding each other, then there are many sophisticated aspects in that the mixed couple may not understand each other.

If  the foreign husband is a retiree just enjoying a blissful hibernation, life may even be funny and superficial. This kind of husband will even feel rejuvenated within this ideal tropical life, with this complete package of happiness, ownership of luxurious habitation or a 30-year lease of the shelter that he has bought for his wife. This situation may be more serious if they have children; – in the past, mixed marriage children were threatening with discrimination, but the situation has improved greatly since 1999.

Foreigners should know and understand the rights of their children under the Thai constitution; – you should know whether they may have double nationality or equal rights as other Thai nationals. Many government officers mistakenly interpret that mixed children will have to revoke their other nationality at the age of 20 years. In fact, nobody can be forced to revoke their nationality, as it can be against international human rights. In Europe, there are many people even having triple nationalities, and most modern countries become more and more tolerant towards this social phenomenon, because the geographic or political borders may not overlap the cultural or sentimental borders.

Professor Dr. Pokin Palakul, Thailand”s Minister of Interior, who received his doctoral degree in Public Law (“droit public”) from the University of Paris, conducted a telephone interview with ITV on April 13, 2004, regarding the problem of people having double nationality on the Thai-Malaysian border. Under Thai laws, the government cannot revoke the Thai nationality of any persons having double nationality, if they legally received their Thai nationality. The revocation can only be made in a case where they commit a very grave harm against the state. The revocation can be made only by the Administrative Court, therefore, your children cannot be forced to renounce, abandon or revoke their nationalities, whatever they may be.

A Thai national with a foreign father may enjoy all rights, and if there is discrimination, by any laws or administrative practice, you may file a petition with the Constitutional Court or Administrative Court as the case may be. The judicial system in Thailand is quite fair and transparent in this respect. Your Thai wife will enjoy all the rights under Thai laws, so she can own the land and do whatever else, similarly to other Thai compatriots, while her husband can enjoy only his golf bag.

Foreigners legally married to Thai nationals may stay in Thailand by way of a “Family Visa,” with the money of 400,000 Baht in a bank account, or a monthly income of about 25,000 Baht. The documents or bank book must be shown to the Immigration Office once a year, and you may have your one-year visa renewed every year without traveling aboard. For husbands having no such income, they are required to do a visa run every three months.

Many foreigners have asked me whether they can have Thai nationality by naturalization, and we can immediately answer that it is not necessary. To be a Thai national, you may be conscripted into Thai military service, and in some situations, you may be conscribed even you are a retiree.

Except for visas and ownership of land, Thai nationality never plays the important role; the principle of the law is “Foreigners may enjoy all rights unless otherwise restricted by law.” If you want to do anything under Thai law and the government officers deny you the right, you may ask them, “Restriction is under what law”” and they have to answer you in writing. If you are not satisfied with the answer, you may appeal to the Administrative Court. For example, if you want to register the ownership of land under your name, the land officer will definitely deny your request by citing the Land Code. But if you want to take up the lease of land, you have the right to do so, because there is no restriction imposed by law.

We have an example of a client who took over the lease of empty land from his friend and registered the 30 year lease of with the Land Office. We advised him to build a house under his name, so he had to apply for the construction permit under his name. After the construction, he will apply for the House Registration Certificate (“Tabien Ban”) under his name, and many people laughed and objected at to this idea by saying that there is no law allowing foreigners to do such a thing. I just followed the principle, – “Foreigners can do everything, except where there is a clear restriction imposed by the Thai laws.” Nobody could find any restriction, but now this foreigner has the House Registration Certificate (“Tabien Ban”), under his name, and we have never paid even one Baht to anybody to obtain this proper legal document; – may Justice prevail for our community.

We observe many fools rushing more and more. They can check out anytime but will never leave. As your “Expat Advocator,” we will conclude with the old English saying, – “It is no good shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted,” which is comparable to the old Thai saying “Never make a fence after all the cows were lost”. Please take professional legal advice from a qualified lawyer, in all important dealings that you are involved within the Kingdom of Thailand.


“Estate Planning” for children who hold our future

“Every family has a destiny”, these words of wisdom remind us to do our best to uphold the future of our beloved ones. The destiny of foreigners in Pattaya is different from the destiny of ones in other parts of the country. In Samui or Phuket, many high profile foreign investors buy properties for speculation or conspicuous consumption while most foreigners in Pattaya buy properties for retreat of their families. The speculation for them is the happiness in the sufficiency economy. However, some of them end up in a dilemma where “Hell hath no fury than their women scorned”. There is no legend for the ones who are blind by love. Please use your wisdom instead of heart in the road which may lead you to perdition.

“Every child holds the future for its father” can be the contemporary solution for many baby boomers who become fathers in Pattaya. In the world of maternal preponderance, the group of “fathers 4 justice” can be the last crusader who fights against the “gender injustice” in the UK which is paradoxically deemed the mother of world democracy.

How about expatriate fathers in Pattaya” Some of them came to see us with tears n their eyes. This social phenomenon should be the alert for all of us to ascertain the appropriate solution for these unfortunate foreigners.

The interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2006 states clearly in the preamble that the Kingdom shall strive to promote and protect right and liberty of the people, to pursue UN Charters, International Treaties and Agreements and relationship with other countries. Our interim prime minister is very ideally keen on the national reconciliation based upon social diversity and pluralism. We have never heard any xenophobic policy from this interim government.

About the strict implementation of visa regulations which is consecutive from the last government, if you are foreigners having Thai legitimate families or over 50 years old, you do not have to scare any effects from these visa regulations.

We are going to talk about two groups of expatriate fathers. The first group focuses on foreigners who registered marriage with their Thai women. In this case, their children will become legitimate descendents. The marriage under Thai laws can be either registered in Thailand at the District Office, or overseas at the Royal Thai Embassy. However, the overseas marriage can be recognized in Thailand at the District Office. Under the Act on Conflicts of Law, both marriages either in Thailand or overseas with Thai recognition are legally enforceable in Thailand.

For the non property right, they are quite equal with their Thai spouses, e.g., guardian right for their children. Some expatriate husbands who have suspicious minds may worry about alimony commitments once they separate in the future. Sir Paul McCartney who is suffering from his most expensive divorce in the UK shows many Brits for his mistake. Some foreigners were advised by their compatriot solicitors to arrange for a prenuptial agreement with Thai wives. However, Thai laws do not really accept the concept of prenuptial agreement in other countries as it is clearly mentioned in Section 1465.- the Civil and Commercial Code of the Kingdom of Thailand :-

“Where the husband and wife have not, previous to their marriage, concluded a special agreement concerning heir properties, the relationship between them as regards their properties shall be governed by the provision of this Chapter.

Any clause in the prenuptial agreement contrary to public order or good morals, or providing that the relationship between them as regards such properties is to be governed by foreign law shall be voided”

In the society of consumerism, women are victimized by the advertising to burn their money for their faces. Grace to His Majesty the King, the doctrine of the “Self Sufficiency Economy” is introduced to save the country from the enemy at our gate which is our “Greed”.  Many foreigners become reluctant to put the ownership of property under the name of their Thai wives or common law partners. The conspicuous consumption seems to be the main culture shock between foreigners who are educated with the strict financial discipline and their Thai wives. Money can devalue the human nature! Can these prudent foreign fathers create a trustee in Thailand for their children” The answer is in Section 1686.- of the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand :-

“Trusts created whether directly or indirectly by will or any juristic act producing effect during lifetime or after death shall have no effect whatever”

The solution for foreign fathers is to put the ownership of properties under the name of their children. “My child is just only one month, how can I put the ownership of land under his name””

Can a juvenile own a property” The answer is “Yes” because there is no restriction even your child has a foreign name or double nationality.

If you put the ownership of property under the name of your child, you or your Thai wife cannot dispose of that land without the order of the Family Court in Chonburi. It means that your Thai wife cannot go to the Family Court alone without you to get the judicial order to sell the property.

In case that you have not registered marriage with your common law Thai wife, you may register the legitimacy of your child under 6 years old with the Family Court in Chonburi. If your child is over 6 years old, you just go to the District Office with your Thai common law wife.

In the worst situation that your Thai common law wife deny to cooperate with you, you will have to sue her in the Family Court to seek for the justice. Once your child is born, you should put your name as a father in a Birth Certificate (Bai Kerd) and house register book (Tabien Ban). The Thai spelling of your name must be full and correct. These documents can be the good evidence for the case in court.

It can be the first “Test Case” in Pattaya for “fathers4justice” to prove that “Paternity” is not always weaker than “Maternity”.

If you become legitimate father of your child, you may stay for good in Thailand with a family visa by showing a bank account of at least 400,000 baht per year without requirement to register marriage with your common law Thai wife. In addition, you can inherit land from your child if your child predeceases you.

Nobody can deny that “Blood is thicker than water!”


King of Rock “Elvis of Pattaya” and his son “Elvis Jr” posted with King of Torts “Solicitor Ponthep” and his daughter “Tirana”