Mixed Nationality Marriages and Property Regulations

Mixed Marriages
Mixed Marriages
Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

We get a lot of questions from clients and those who just need some honest, spin-free advice about mixed nationality marriage couples and their rights regarding property under Indonesian law, so I sat down with Andy Gray, from Seven Stones Indonesia to get his take on how he deals with this sort of question.

AB: So, Andy, let’s get straight to the meat of this … what are the legal implications of mixed nationality marriages and property ownership in Indonesia?

AG: Let me begin by saying that I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one! We advise everyone who asks anything regarding the law to consult a professional lawyer or notary. All we can do is to give our opinions based on our knowledge and understanding. We do keep as up-to-date as we can and hold regular meetings and discussions with those professionals we see as being the most fair, honest and up to date. Having said that, the problem in the case of mixed nationality marriages and property ownership is that once an Indonesian citizen marries a foreigner they can lose the right to buy or sell Freehold land.

AB: So does an Indonesian have the same legal status as a foreigner when it comes to property transactions?

AG: Not exactly. Initially, this comes from a regulation dating back to Article 35 of the 1974 Marriage Law which states that a person cannot retain all assets obtained prior to marriage or assets inherited during marriage, unless the couple makes a prenuptial agreement. The definition of assets here covers land and property.

Meanwhile, articles 29 and 36 of the Marriage Law require Indonesian who marry foreigners to make prenuptial agreements in order to buy and own property if they wish to do so after they marry.

This is somewhat antiquated and a lot of the regulations in this act of 1974 have been changed and updated by various other acts, most notably in 2006, 2011 and 2015. An example of this can be seen in the fact that any land the person held before marriage is unaffected by the marriage, also a citizen is able to inherit land during the time of the marriage.

There are lots of people in this situation right now who don’t even know it’s a problem and the real problem will arise not when the Indonesian citizen buys a property, but when they come to sell, because the spouse has to sign off on all documentation relating to the sale. You don’t need your partner’s permission to buy. I’ve seen cases where the fact the spouse is foreign has been missed or overlooked by a Notary, but I don’t think this an ideal scenario and it really isn’t a position you want to put yourself in.

AB: So, what’s the solution?

AG: The first thing to make a note of is where was the couple married? If they weren’t married in Indonesia was the marriage registered here?

AB: What difference would that make?

AG: Because if the marriage wasn’t actually in Indonesia and wasn’t registered in Indonesia, Indonesian law won’t recognize it.

AB: OK, so let’s assume the couple were either married here or have had their marriage officially recognized. What’s the solution to this issue?

AG: As I said, by law the easiest way is to have a Prenuptial Agreement. If the couple have this they just need to show a copy of the Prenup to the Notary at the time of sale. The Prenup basically needs to say that the foreigner has no claims or rights over any property the Indonesian owns. A Prenup can be prepared and signed by a Notary for a relatively small amount of money.

AB: What if they didn’t sign a Prenup?

AG: Interestingly enough this applies to a lot of people who either married before the Prenup regulation came into play in 1974 or who married after but just didn’t know about it. Up until fairly recently there wasn’t a straight forward solution, I have heard of couples getting divorced then re-married, applying for KTP’s that stated they were single, (neither of which I would recommend by the way), or changing the title from Hak Milik to Hak Pakai and putting it in the name of the foreign spouse.

AB: Is there anything you would recommend that these couples can do?

AG: The only really legal option is by going to court and asking the court for a reversal of the joint ownership regulation, this is known as a Perjanjian Pisah Harta. It’s important to emphasize here that this is NOT a Postnup and it’s not something a Notary can do on their own. To achieve this at court both partners have to show that they have their own incomes and they’re both financially secure.

They then need to argue that the reason for modifying the rule concerning assets is because it could be detrimental to one or both partners if it isn’t. This would cover all assets not just property, for example something not related to property like if they wanted to start a company.

It could be argued that one partner doesn’t want the other partner to be liable for any debt the company may incur because that would be detrimental to one or other of the partners. They should then ask the court to modify the matrimonial rule concerning assets before they create the company. This is a relatively new solution to the problem for us, I first heard about it being used in Jakarta with mixed couples who didn’t have a Prenup and we used it in Bali for the first time around 3 months ago.

AB: Are there any other options?

AG: Not really, however PerCap, (the mixed race marriage lobbying group) have been pushing for a change in this regulation for a number of years, especially since the introduction of the updated regulation in December 2015. There’s a bill having its second reading in Parliament right now, addressing, among other things, this very issue. So, hopefully this somewhat outdated regulation will be changed or even abolished soon … watch this space!

AB: Many thanks for your time and insights Andy.



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Andrzej Barski

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Andrzej is Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia. He was born in the UK to Polish parents and has been living in Indonesia for more than 33-years. He is a skilled writer, trainer and marketer with a deep understanding of Indonesia and its many cultures after spending many years travelling across the archipelago from North Sumatra to Irian Jaya.

His experience covers Marketing, Branding, Advertising, Publishing, Real Estate and Training for 5-Star Hotels and Resorts in Bali and Jakarta, which has given him a passion for the customer experience. He’s a published author and a regular contributor to local and regional publications. His interests include conservation, eco-conscious initiatives, spirituality and motorcycles. Andrzej speaks English and Indonesian.

Terje H. Nilsen

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Terje is from Norway and has been living in Indonesia for over 20-years. He first came to Indonesia as a child and after earning his degree in Business Administration from the University of Agder in Norway, he moved to Indonesia in 1993, where he has worked in leading positions in education and the fitness/ wellness industries all over Indonesia including Jakarta, Banjarmasin, Medan and Bali.

He was Co-owner and CEO of the Paradise Property Group for 10-years and led the company to great success. He is now Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia offering market entry services for foreign investors, legal advice, sourcing of investments and in particular real estate investments. He has a soft spot for eco-friendly and socially sustainable projects and investments, while his personal business strengths are in property law, tourism trends, macroeconomics, Indonesian government and regulations. His personal interests are in sport, adventure, history and spiritual experiences.

Terje’s leadership, drive and knowledge are recognised across many industries and his unrivalled network of high level contacts in government and business spans the globe. He believes you do good and do well but always in that order. Terje speaks English, Indonesian and Norwegian.

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Ridwan Jasin Zachrie

CFO of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Ridwan is one of Indonesia’s top executives with a long and illustrious career in the financial world. He holds several professional certifications including being a Certified Business Valuer (CBV) issued by the Australian Academy of Finance and Management; Broker-Dealer Representative (WPPE); and The Directorship Certification for Directors and Commissioners, issued by the Indonesian Institute of Commissioners and Directors.

His experience includes being the Managing Director at one of the top investment banking groups in the region, the Recapital Group, the CFO at State-owned enterprises in fishery industry and the CEO at Tanri Abeng & Son Holding. He’s also been an Independent Commissioner in several Financial Service companies and on the Audit and Risk Committee at Bank BTPN Tbk, Berau Coal Energy Tbk, Aetra Air Jakarta as well as working for Citibank, Bank Mandiri and HSBC. His last position was as CFO at PT Citra Putra Mandiri – OSO Group.

Ridwan has won a number of prestigious awards including the Best CFO Awards 2019 (Institute of Certified Management Accountant Australia-Indonesia); Asia Pacific Young Business Leader awarded by Asia 21 Network New York USA (Tokyo 2008); UK Alumni Business Awards 2008 awarded by the British Council; and The Most Inspiring Human Resources Practitioners’ version of Human Capital Magazine 2010.

He’s a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alumni Association of the Faculty of Law, Trisakti University, Co-Founder of the Paramadina Public Policy Institute and actively writes books, publications and articles in the mass media. He co-authored “Korupsi Mengorupsi Indonesia” in 2009, which helps those with an interest in understanding governance in Indonesia and the critical issue of corruption. Ridwan speaks Indonesian and English.

Per Fredrik Ecker

Managing Director of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Per is the Managing Director of the Seven Stones Indonesia (SSI) Jakarta office and has more than 25-years’ experience in Indonesia, China, and Western Europe. He previously worked in senior management positions with Q-Free ASA, Siemens AG, and other companies in the telecom sector. Over the last six years, he has been the Chairman of the Indonesia-Norway Business Council (INBC) and recently become elected to be on the board of EuroCham Indonesia.

His most recent experience is within Intelligent Transport Solutions (ITS), Telecom, and other sectors within the Indonesian market. He is today through his position in SSI and by representing Norway Connect, promoting Nordic and European companies that would like to explore business opportunities in the Indonesian market. He’s also playing an active role to help create the Nordic House concept in Jakarta that will provide an excellent platform for Nordic companies entering Indonesia, where they’ll find a community that can offer support with trusted information and affordable services to enter this market.