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Text by: Pabita Dahal

What is court marriage?

Court marriage is defined as the legal authorisation of marriage in court. According to advocate Nabin Bhandari, court marriage can be performed in two ways: In front of the district court and in front of the embassy. The procedure for court marriage is governed by the Chapter of Marriage of Civil Code 2017 (2074). Court marriage can be solemnised between two parties irrespective of their caste, religion, race or nation. The eligible candidates can directly apply to the Marriage Registrar to receive a marriage certificate. They can get married in any district court of Nepal.

“In the case of getting married in Embassy, according to number 76 and 77 of the Chapter of Marriage of Civil Code, it allows people residing abroad to register the court marriage before the Embassy of Nepal or Consulate Office located in a foreign country. However, no such records are found in practice yet,” explains Bhandari.

Who can apply?

Gyan Bahadur Karki, Spokesperson of Kathmandu District Court, says that Nepal’s law provides an opportunity for domestic marriage and inter-country marriage. A foreign couple can also tie the knot in a Nepali court if they present the verified documents and procedures prescribed by the law. Court marriage is applicable to couples aged 20 years and above who are not traditionally married but intend to get married legally.

How do you apply?

According to Karki the couple should submit an application letter to the District Court along with the photocopy of an original document such as their citizenship, passport and birth certificate. A letter from the ward office of the female and male stating that they are unmarried, divorced or widowed and 4×4 copies of passport size photos of both parties is needed. The application process includes the submission of their permanent district and a letter by the ward office that verifies their residence with the related district for more than 15 days. The couple should also provide a recommendation letter from their permanent ward office stating the above.

“When it comes to foreign citizens, they must submit a letter of the residing country stating that the applicant does not have a history of criminal record along with a No Objection letter provided by the government authority of the foreign country or concerned embassy. They are required to submit an authorised document that they are unmarried, divorced or widowed. They should hand in the related country’s main copy of law that describes the rules of marriage along with the Nepali translation of it. All mentioned documents must be verified by a lawyer,” he adds.

The process

Court marriage is a quick process. If all the required documents are submitted, the court calls the applicants on a different day for inquiry. They should bring at least two witnesses one from the girl’s side and another from the boy’s side. Witnesses can be relatives, family member or friends but they must bring their identity cards. “If applicants submit all the required documents, the procedure is completed just in two days after the marriage registrar of district court verifies the marriage certificate,” states Karki.

Why is court marriage important?

“One cannot register to be married in a local ward office if his/her spouse is a foreign citizen, in this situation, court marriage is important as it is the only option for legal security,” says Advocate Surendra Tiwari. A marriage is registered in court is considered more valid in foreign countries when compared to a marriage registered in the ward office. It would be beneficial for the couple applying for a visa or residing in a foreign country.

Why do people opt for court marriage?

In recent days, more people are opting for court marriage. According to Karki, on average six couples get married per day in the Kathmandu District Court. According to Bhandari, people opt for court marriage because it is economical. “In today’s context, traditional marriages have become very expensive.,” he asserts. Court marriage is also a suitable option for couples who are eligible and intend to get married but suffer from familial disputes regarding marriage. Likewise, it also offers couples privacy.

What should couples know before marrying legally?

“When you register your marriage in court you will legally be each other’s spouse. Once you are married you cannot form relations with others except your legal partner, as per the law. You are also no longer the single owner of your property. The ownership automatically gets divided equally between you and your partner. And they have family responsibility to fulfill too. So, one should be mentally prepared before signing the papers,” Tiwari advices. Similarly, Bhandari shares, “Normally, people get married without acknowledging the division of property ownership and during divorce, husbands are reluctant to divide the property.”

Court marriage creates lots of rights and responsibilities. “After marriage ownership of property and assets automatically becomes shared. According to the new Civil Code 2074, the wife should share her financial transactions with her husband. The old law put this burden on the husband only as the provider of all basic needs. The New Civil Code distributes equal financial obligation to both the husband and wife. If the wife’s income is higher than the husband, she should take care of her husband,” clarifies Bhandari.

Couples also have to bear many responsibilities as husband and wife. They must take care of each other and each other’s family. After marriage, the responsibility of parents is also transferred to the daughter-in-law and son-in-law.

When they have children, both parents have to take equal responsibility for them. In case of separation the child must remain with the mother up to ten years. Otherwise, they can take mutual responsibility. After the child turns ten, it is up to the child with whom s/he wants to live.

How is the marriage registration different from court marriage?

According to Bhandari, marriage registration and court marriage are two different things. “Couples register marriage in the local ward office after they get married traditionally. They submit photos of marriage, family member, etc as evidence and a marriage certificate is verified by the authorised personal of the ward office. On the other hand, court marriage is performed in the district court. It is not a registration. It is marriage itself which is verified by the marriage registrar of the district court based on the witness and documents provided. The record of court marriage eventually goes to the ward office,” he opines.

Disadvantages of court marriage

Bhandari says that fake marriages are done to apply for visas and this is a misuse of the court. “In the present condition, people get married to apply for visa abroad. The spouse attains legal property rights especially the wife. There are an increasing number of such cases. Men should be alert so that your legal partner does not create such problems for you”.

What does it cost?

“You have to pay Rs 500 as registration fee in the court. The ward office provides free service. But if the couple requires a recommendation from the ward office where they are not permanent residents they have to pay the amount of Rs 2010 for locals and Rs 5020 for foreigners. They may be charged a lawyer fee starting from Rs 10,000 to Rs 100,000,” says Tiwari.