Nowadays, a man and a woman living together as husband and wife without registering their marriage has become increasingly common in Vietnam (cohabitation). This comes from their demand to “cohabit” before marriage for more mutual understanding and/or from their belief that marriage registration is not necessary in modern society, even if they have held a traditional wedding ceremony in front of their families and friends.
From a legal perspective, this situation may contain the risk of giving rise to disputes about divorce, and property, debt, or children in common between the parties. And it will not be easy to settle these disputes.
In this article, BLawyers Vietnam provides our readers several notes related to this issue through 03 questions below.
1. What does “living as husband and wife” mean?
Currently, the law of Vietnam does not prohibit men and women from living together as husband and wife without registering their marriage, except in cases in which one or both parties are in a lawful marriage relationship with another person, or the parties have the same direct bloodline, are relatives within three generations, etc.
If they are living as husband or wife with a person whom the parties know has a wife/husband, and they have violated the provisions of Vietnamese law on the monogamous marriage regime, an administrative penalty or criminal penalty will be imposed on the parties, subject to specific cases.
2. Does the law of Vietnam recognize a marriage relationship between two parties living together as husband and wife without a marriage registration?
According to the prevailing Law on Marriage and Family of Vietnam, marriage is the relationship between husband and wife after getting marriage. Getting married means the establishment of a husband-and-wife relationship by a man and woman in accordance with the law on marriage conditions and marriage registration. Accordingly, the marriage relationship can only be formed if the two parties meet the conditions for marriage and have registered their marriage at a competent authority.
From these above regulations, it can be seen that the law of Vietnam does not recognize a marriage relationship between men and women living together as husband and wife without registering their marriage. This status does not give rise to rights and obligations between husband and wife for the parties.
Regarding this issue, Vietnamese law provides an exception called “actual marriage”. Accordingly, if two parties began living together as husband and wife before 01 March 1987, and have complied with the conditions of marriage but have not yet registered their marriage, Vietnam recognizes their marriage relationship from the time they started living together.
3. How are disputes related to divorce, division of assets, and child custody settled if a man and woman live together as husband and wife without a marriage registration?
Currently, the Court in Vietnam will consider and accept for settlement a divorce request from two parties living together as husband and wife without marriage registration. Accordingly, regardless of mutual divorce or unilateral divorce, the Court shall issue a decision on not recognizing a husband-and-wife relationship between such parties.
If the parties have a request for settlement of children and property shared in common, the Court shall settle such disputes according to provisions in the Law on Marriage and Family as follows:
- Rights and obligations between the two parties and their children such as child custody and child support shall be settled according to regulations on the rights and obligations of parents and children.
- Property, debt and obligations in common shall be settled by agreement between the parties. In case there is no agreement, these matters shall comply with the provisions of the Civil Code on property ownership and civil obligations.
In addition, the division of property shall also consider the legitimate rights and interests of women and children.
Living together as husband and wife without marriage registration between men and women will become a notable legal matter if they have children, property, or debt in common during this period.
Therefore, the parties need to learn about the legal consequences of these above-mentioned issues to establish necessary agreements before deciding to cohabit with their partner.
Date: 08 August 2023
Writer: Trinh Nguyen