It is your right whether to register or not, but it would sure be helpful
It’s not the most romantic part of the wedding ceremony, but the paperwork does play a vital role – and many Cambodian couples are simply ignoring it.
“Marriage is not only an agreement between two people to spend their lives together, it’s also a legal contract that unites man and wife,” said Yim Sam Ol, chief of statistics and civil registration offices in the Ministry of Interior. “But only for those who have a marriage certificate.”
The legal consequences and requirements of marriage were hammered out in a law passed by the National Assembly of the State of Cambodia in 1989. But years later, many citizens still don’t bother to collect a marriage certificate.
Sour Mory, an administration and hr officer at the Cambodia Center for Independent Media, has been married for a decade, though she lacks a wedding certificate.
“10 years ago, people didn’t even know the point of getting an identity card, let alone a marriage certificate,” she said. “We didn’t think it was important. The most important thing was that we love and trust each other.”
Therein lies the rub. Not having a marriage certificate can be okay in a healthy relationship, but presents major difficulties if the marriage hits the rocks.
“It’s fine when you don’t have any family problems,” said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project. “But you will encounter severe difficulties if you want to divorce, in terms of wealth division and custody over children.”
Sok Sam Oeun warned that partners in a marriage without a certificate have no legal recourse when it comes to dividing assets, and also cannot take their partner to court in the event of adultery.
“Getting a marriage certificate is a must,” said Chory Peou, who married in Battambang province four years ago. Chory Peou said that having her marriage legally recognised made it stronger, and gave her and her husband more incentive to work through issues.
Sok Sam Oeun said that the lack of a marriage certificate also hurts the second generation – any children that spring from the marriage may not be able to receive a birth certificate.
But Yim Sam Ol said the trend is steadily changing: since 2008, there has been a general increase in knowledge about legal protocol for marriage.
Sok Sam Oeun said, in the end, it is up to couples to make the right decision. “It is your right whether to register or not, but it would sure be helpful if your partner leaves you to marry someone else.”