What is family law?

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Family law concerns domestic matters involving spouses, partners and children. Let’s look at common issues regarding Indonesian family law. Then find out how a family law expert can help you.


A couple’s legal requirements for a marriage in Indonesia are determined by their religion. Law No. 1 of 1974 regarding marriage in Indonesia states “a marriage is legitimate if it has been performed according to the laws of the respective religious beliefs of the parties concerned.” Therefore, partners in marriage must state their religion and this religion must be the same for both partners. As a consequence, one of the partners may need to make a written declaration of a change of religion.

An Islamic religious marriage is performed by the Office of Religious Affairs (Kantor Urusan Agama) and provides the marriage legal status immediately after the ceremony. In comparison, a non-Islamic marriage requires registration at the Civil Registry Office (Kantor Catatan Sipi) after the ceremony to acquire legal status. Foreigners marrying an Indonesian citizen must present them a  ‘Letter of No Impediment’ from their consular representatives prior to getting married.

A family lawyer can help you navigate these marriage procedures. In addition, a legal professional can help you update your estate planning documents such as your will, to include your partner and children. Also, a family law professional can draft a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement, to ensure your assets are divided the way you and you partner want. A notary public must sign the agreement. Without a prenuptial agreement the religious court (for Islamic religious marriage) or district court (for non-Islamic marriage) controls the division of your assets. Have these documents created before it comes to a divorce, and your divorce process may be much smoother.


Divorce is to be carried out by the Court of Law, after the court has unsuccessfully tried to reconcile the parties. A family lawyer can help you navigate the divorce process.

Marital Property

The division of joint marital property is dealt with according to the respective laws of the spouse, which may be religious laws, customary law and other laws. Usually the joint property is divided equally between the spouses, unless a prenuptial agreement states otherwise. A family attorney can help advocate, negotiate and mediate regarding the division of your assets.


The Court may decide alimony payment as an obligation of the husband. However, the Court may also decide a certain obligation on the part of the former wife. There are no definite criteria to determine the duration or amount of alimony payment. In practice, the Court will decide a reasonable alimony amount to be paid by the husband. This is where a family lawyer can help you advocate, negotiate and mediate.

Child support

In case of a custody dispute, the Court assigns the father responsibility for maintenance expenses. If the father is unable to bear this responsibility, the Court may order mother to share these expenses. A family attorney can help ensure a parent is disclosing all income and assets or defend against child support claims.

Child custody

If there are minor children involved, the Court usually awards custody to the mother, unless the mother is the one at fault or proof can be provided of her incompetence to take care of the children.

A family lawyer can help draft a parenting agreement, to address topics such as:

  • Custody and living arrangements
  • Visiting rights
  • Financial support and expenses
  • Education
  • Religious involvement
  • Health care
  • Holidays


A legal child is a child born in wedlock (from legally married parents). In contrast, a child born out of wedlock has a civil law relation only with the mother and the mother’s family. In order to establish a legal relationship with the father, Indonesian law requires an admission, referred to as ‘pengakuan’ in which the father acknowledges the child is his. The out of wedlock child has a civil law relationship with the birth mother only, implicating only the mother’s family has inheritance rights over the child. The pengakuan admission of parentage by the father does not add a family relationship between the child with the father and the father’s family. Only legalization can grant a family relationship between the child and both parents and the families of both parents. For the father to legalize the child’s birth the only option is to legally marry the child’s mother.


Adoption is the process of formalizing a legal parent/child relationship between individuals who are not related by blood. A lawyer can ensure you comply with the adoption laws and navigate you through the process.


Clearly, domestic matters have great impact. With much at stake in family law matters, hiring a family law expert is almost always a good choice.

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