Legal Realities of Indonesian Expatriates – Family Matters

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The purpose of this article is to explain some of the main family law related topics in the context of expatriate life in Indonesia. This includes a discussion on marriage and divorce.

First, it is important to establish that the article will mainly concentrate on the relationships between foreigners and Indonesian nationals. While foreign couples go through the same events as mixed couples, facing Indonesian laws as part of a foreigner-Indonesian couple is at times much more strenuous and complicated.

Please note that previous Jakarta Expat articles have already addressed related topics of “Indonesian Citizenship Concerns for Children from Mixed Marriages” and “Land Ownership.”

According to Law No. 1 of 1974 on Marriage Law, “a marriage is legitimate if it has been performed according to the laws of the respective religious beliefs of the parties concerned.”

What this means is that generally, all persons may marry in Indonesia, provided that they hold a religion recognized by the Indonesian Government: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Christian Catholic/Protestant. Marriage partners must have the same religion or make a written declaration of change of religion.

Marriages may be performed by Ministers of Religion, officers of the Kantor Catatan Sipil (Civil Registry Office), or the Kantor Urusan Agama (Office of Religious Affairs). For the marriage to be legal, it must be conducted according to the religion and conform to the laws of the countries of the parties involved.

It is important to note that every non-Islamic marriage must be recorded with the Civil Registry (Kantor Catatan Sipil) or the marriage will not be considered legal.

Individuals of non-Islamic faith are required to first file a “Notice of Intention to Marry” at the Civil Registry Office in the Regency where they are staying. At the same time, they must file a “Letter of no Impediment,” which is obtained from the consular representatives.

Documents required for the Notice of Intention to Marry are different for expatriates and for Indonesian citizens. Thus, ensure that you consult with an up to date official website or a lawyer for the purpose of submitting appropriate documentation.

Article 57 of Marriage Law stipulates that a mixed marriage is “a marriage between two people in Indonesia is subject to different laws as a result of difference in citizenship and one of the parties is an Indonesian citizen.”

Article 60 elaborates that requirements of marriage should follow the national law applicable to each person entering the marriage, including consent requirements, marital age, and prohibited relationships. Citizenship also follows the same requirements and the marriage partner may either acquire the nationality of the other or lose his/her citizenship in accordance with the requirements and procedures related to one’s nationality.

For necessary documentation, information, and general guidance, it is necessary for the persons intending to marry to visit their country’s embassy in Indonesia and consult with as many resources as possible. A very generous resource that compiles much information into one location is http://www.expat.or.id/info/familylaw.html.

What is imperative to highlight is the importance of prenuptial agreements in mixed marriages, as they can assist in resolving many issues, such as property ownership, should they ever arise.

When marriages come to an end, individuals must be aware of the legal framework that surrounds the divorce proceedings. Marriage Law of 1974 stipulates that a marriage may be terminated due to: 1. Death of either party 2. Divorce 3. Upon court’s decision.

In order to proceed with a divorce, either of the parties must file a divorce petition to the court. Divorce may only be executed before a court session, a district court for Non-Muslims, or before a religious court for Muslims. The list of legal grounds of filing for divorce includes such grounds as: adultery, drugs, alcoholism, leaving spouse for two years, imprisonment for five or more consecutive years, cruelty, disability or disease preventing from fulfilling spousal duties, or irreconcilable differences.

A court decision is an annulment, which means that a marriage may be cancelled if both parties cannot fulfil the conditions for the marriage and can only be decided by a court of law of a jurisdiction where the marriage was conducted or of the residence of the couple.

It is clear that full discussion on both marriage and divorce is outside of the scope of this article. It must be repeated that it is absolutely vital that you seek legal assistance if you have any questions concerning your citizenship, children, adopting stepchildren, property, among other concerns. Do not hesitate to seek advice even when you think you have all of the necessary information. When it comes to these matters, knowledge of Indonesian law is necessary.

(Anything written in this article is intended to provide information only and is not intended to serve as legal advice).

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Julia acquired two degrees, B.A. and J.D., from universities in British Columbia, Canada. She is currently employed as a legal consultant at Hukumonline. Established in 2000, Hukumonline is the country’s leading provider of legal news and analysis, serving top law firms, both in Indonesia and abroad. It provides comprehensive and authoritative legal information services to the clients in an affordable and an easy-to-use manner. For more information on Hukumonline and to read up-to-date legal news in English, please refer to en.hukumonline.com.