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The Validity of Marriage

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Unlike other countries, Indonesian law has no provision for non-religious civil marriages. The validity of marriage is governed by the Marriage Law of 1974 which took affect in 2nd January 1974. The mixed-marriage couple needs to pay attention to the legal issues surrounding their union. If something unforeseen happens down the line, lack of legal requirements in your marriage will put you into an unfavorable condition. If the law doesn’t recognize your marriage, you are considered to be not marriage at all. This lack of a legal status will affect your divorce, division of marital properties, alimony, and child custody.

Religious Marriages

Indonesia’s 1974 Marriage Law stipulates that marriage can be legally recognized if it is performed according to the religion of the two parties. In Indonesia religion is the main issue in marriage. Marriages between different religions is not allowed in Indonesia. Both spouses must have the same religion in order to get marry legally.

Once you have made the decision to marry in Indonesia, you must choose the type of religious ceremony that you intend to have. For Non-Moslems, you must hold a church (or temple) ceremony first, and then record the marriage with the Civil Registry Office. The couple will experience two types of ceremonies. The religious ceremony will be performed first, followed by a civil ceremony. The Civil Registry will in turn issue a Marriage Certificate, which is evidence that you are legally married. A Non-Moslem wedding which is not recorded with the Civil Registry is not considered legal. There will be two certificates presented at the end of ceremony, one from the church/temple, and one from the Civil Registry Office.

If you have decided the marry in a Moslem ceremony, you must register your marriage at the local Office of Religious Affairs (Kantor Urusan Agama/KUA). Persons wedded in a Moslem ceremony are issued a Marriage Book and need not record their marriage with Civil Registry Office.

Civil Weddings

Considering that Indonesian law has no provision for non-religious civil marriages, the couple who wishes to perform a civil wedding should provide the religious marriage certificate first (i.e. Certificate of Marriage Solemnization), which means that they have completed the religious marriage in their country. Some foreign tourists who get married while on their vacation/honeymoon in Indonesia, choose this route.

International Recognition

Mixed-marriage couples married in Indonesia should pay attention to this issue, especially if they have married in Moslem ceremony. The Moslem Marriage Book is NOT accepted in several countries - for example, Netherlands. The immigration regulations in the Netherlands require a Certificate of Attestation from the Indonesian Civil Registry Office. This is the certificate that show that the marriage has been registered with the Indonesian Civil Registry Office in order to register at the Civil Registry Office in the Netherlands. You need to submit supporting documents such as your passports, visa, marriage books, and photographs (with groom on the right side).

Theoretically, this is may sounds odd. The Office of Religious Affairs and the Civil Registry Office are the Indonesian government institutions that have the authority to record your marriage. But, in actual practice, you will experience numerous legal difficulties iif you are not fully aware of the legal consequences of your actions.

If you go to the Surabaya Civil Registry Office, they will not issue a Certificate of Attestation based on the Moslem Marriage Book. They don’t even want to provide the letter of rejection either. They find Office of Religious Affairs has the same position as them, believing that they are not authorized to issue such certificate.

According to the Regional Autonomy Law of 2004, the regulation for civil registry and population services is the sole responsible of local municipal offices. So, the Surabaya Municipal offices is fully within its authority to consider that the Religious Affairs and Civil Registry take the same legal position.

Another matter that deserves attention is document legalization. Immigration-related documents require certifications or legalizations or authentications in order to be recognized internationally.

The legalization rules are different for each country. Not all information is provided clearly and regulations are not the same in every country. This conflicting information is typical of government bureaucracy all over the world. As we are aware, US rules specify that your certificate(s) should be less than a year old. As for the Netherlands regulations, the certificate(s) should be less than five years old. The process is usually complicated and in many cases a lack of time or expertise can cause delays and valuable time will be lost.
Indonesia is not a part of the Hague Convention, a group of nations joined to create a simplified method of legalizing documents for universal recognition. Therefore, you need an Embassy Legalization for your documents to be valid internationally.

As a non-member of the Hague Convention, Indonesian documents must fulfill certain requirements before the foreign embassy can legalize your documents. Indonesian documents should first pass the procedures at the related government institutions in Indonesia, such as Notary Public certification, Civil Registry, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and/or Ministry of Religion.

Marriage Legalization

The mixed-couple who has decided to get marry abroad, will not be exempted from the law. The 1974’s Marriage Law stipulates that within one year after your return to Indonesia, you must report the marriage to the Civil Registry Office. You will be presented a Surat Tanda Bukti Laporan Perkawinan (STBLP). This certificate is very important and will make your marriage recognized by Indonesian law. Even if you have decided not to stay in Indonesia, this certificate is a must-have document. You never know what will happened in the future and something may cause you to move back to Indonesia. By then, complications will arise in your case due to the long interval of time. You will need to get a court decree in order for your marriage to be recorded at civil registry office. It will ensure additional hassles if you choose to deliver a baby in Indonesia in the future. You cannot get the foreign birth certificate for the baby if you do not possess a STBLP. In addition to the STBLP, it is also a very important document if you would like to own property in Indonesia. The Notary Public will require an Indonesian marriage certificate, whether it’s a STBLP or a regular marriage certificate. Your overseas marriage certificate will NOT be accepted because your marriage is not recognized by Indonesian law.

Marriages Carried-Out Before 1974

Marriages carried out before 1974 were governed by Indonesian Civil Code. The code is based on Dutch colonial rules which divide people into classes, i.e., European, Indonesian native (pribumi), Chinese, and Far-Eastern (Arab and India).

This law was meant to be very specific according to who you are and where you come from. It did not treat people equally. The Code saw people through race, customs, and classes. Unbelievably, many of these marriages are still valid and have not been revoked yet.

Our thanks to Asep A. Wijaya, Managing Director of Wijaya and Co for sharing this information with the community!

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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