A common law marriage, or ‘de facto’ marriage is basically a marriage that is recognized by law as a valid marriage after a period of time in which a man and a woman have cohabited as husband and wife and presented themselves to the outside world as husband and wife without officially registering the marriage. Some countries in the world and some states in the US legally recognize this as a valid marriage, even though the marriage is not registered.
The principle of a common law or de facto marriage is NOT recognized under Thai law. Only registered marriages or marriages according to Thailand marriage laws entered into the marriage register are recognized as legal and valid marriages and will create the rights, duties and responsibilities between the spouses under Thai marriage laws.
So, even though a man and a wife have cohabited as husband and wife in Thailand for several years, and maybe confirmed their status through a Buddhist marriage ceremony, this does not create a marriage under Thai law, nor could it create any claims as to maintenance or to marital property upon separation by one of the parties to property titled in the other party’s name.
A de facto, common law marriage or a Buddhist marriage does not create a valid marriage in Thailand and therefore a prenuptial agreement is not required to protect the personal assets of the parties during the cohabitation. Only if the marriage is officially registered with the government and entered into the official marriage register the relationship between husband and wife is governed by the Thai Civil and Commercial Code and will create marital property between husband and wife under Thai family laws. In this case, prior to the marriage, a prenuptial agreement should be considered.
An official marriage can only be ended through a formal Thai divorce procedure.
Even though common law marriages are not recognized by Thai law a regulation of the Ministry of Interior for Thai nationals married to a foreigners purchasing land require a signed letter of confirmation by both the foreigner and the Thai national that the land is bought as a personal asset of the Thai national under Thai marriage laws before the land is legally registered in the Thai national’s name.
Only in case of a official marriage in Thailand a correctly registered and valid prenuptial agreement is recommended to prevent future disputes over personal properties and possible division of marital assets.