Betrothal Agreements under Thai Law
Under Thai law, a promise to marry creates a legally binding agreement if the groom transfers property called the khongman (a “reverse dowry” or “bride price”) to the bride after the betrothal has taken place. Therefore, as a legal contract, a betrothal gives rise to legal ramifications. According to Sections 1439 and 1440 of the Civil and Commercial Code, if a betrothal agreement is broken by one of the parties (i.e. the marriage does not take place), the other party is allowed to claim for compensation arising due to (1) any resulting injury caused to body or reputation (2) any expenses incurred in preparation for the marriage, (3) any measures taken in relation to property or occupation in preparation for the marriage. In the case where the groom breached the contract, the Court may or may not take into consideration the amount of the khongman.
In Thai Supreme Court Decision No. 3366/2525, the facts were that the Bride and the Groom entered into a betrothal agreement and agreed that they would legally register their marriage at a later time. Afterwards the couple performed a marriage ceremony and they cohabitated as husband and wife. The Bride then asked the Groom to legally register their marriage as agreed; however, the Groom responded that he was too busy. At some point later, the Bride gave birth to a child born from the Groom. The Bride repeated her request to the Groom to legally register their marriage, but the Groom ignored the request. The Bride and her family then sued Groom for compensation pursuant to Sections 1439 and 1440 of the Civil and Commercial Code. The Court ruled in favor of Bride and affirmed damages as follows:
- Injury to Reputation. The Court affirmed the lower court’s rationale in taking into consideration Bride’s education, career, income and family background. Furthermore, the Court also took into consideration the fact that Bride gave birth to a child which would make it more difficult for her to get married again. The Court also noted that according to the traditional Chinese culture of the Bride, a woman who must go through a second marriage suffers a great deal of embarrassment. The Court affirmed damages in the amount of 200,000 baht.1
- Any Measures Taken in Preparation. Bride quit her job at a garment company approximately one month after cohabitating with Groom. She did so in order to help Groom with his business and to be a housewife. The Court held that Bride could claim for damages starting from the date that Groom breached the betrothal agreement until the date that she found new employment. The Court held that even though Bride may have resigned from her new job afterwards, she could not be awarded damages because during that time the couple had been arguing to the point where it was clear that they would not continue with their plans for marriage. The Court affirmed damages in the amount of 14,567 baht.
Marriage is a complex matter. If you are interested in getting married in Thailand, it is advised that you consult with competent legal counsel in order to understand your rights and obligations.
1 The case was decided in 1982.
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