Question) I am a US citizen and have been living with my Korean boyfriend for about 3 years in South Korea.  We loved each other and agreed to marry, but we were so busy having the legal process timely done, and most importantly we found no need to do that.  We’ve just thought each other as husband and wife and so do our friends and families. While living together, he ran an Internet business and made quite large profits from there.  I took care of every housework and sometimes I helped his business work, too. But, recently I found he had cheated on me. I was so shocked and got separated from him.  My concern is whether I have any right to the assets accumulated during our cohabitation, like a property division right between divorcing couple.

Answer) Under Korean law, in order to establish the marital relationship, the parties must report their marriage to the government.  Just having a wedding ceremony and/or living together as a husband and a wife is not enough for the establishment of legal marriage.

What Is the Common-Law Marriage in Korea?

If the parties live together without the marriage report and consider themselves each other’s spouse, it is called a common-law marriage or a de facto marriage. The Korean law recognizes the common-law marriage.

When can a common-law marriage be legally established under Korean law?  The court’s recognition of common-law marriage is subject to the finding of both (i) mutual intent to form a marital relationship, and (ii) the existence of substance of marital life.  For this purpose, the court looks into various facts such as the duration of cohabitation, the existence of a marriage ceremony, relationship with other family members, etc.

What Rights Do I Have under Common-Law Marriage in Korea?

Common-law marriage is not a legal marriage.  Thus it is not entitled to the same level of legal protection as the legal marriage.  But, when it comes to the dissolution of the common law marriage relationship, Korean law applies almost identical protection to the parties.

Right of Property Division

First, the Korean law grants the right of property division to each party of the common law marriage.  Each party is entitled to some share of the assets acquired during the relationship according to his or her contribution.  Even if a party who is solely responsible for the relationship breakdown can still claim for the division of the property.

RIght of Consolation Money

Second, a party can seek consolation money against the other party, if the other party is solely responsible for the relationship breakdown.  The amount the party can seek is decided by various (more…)

Q) I wish to file a divorce from my wife.  Our relationship ended in practice earlier this year and she returned to Korea in August. We were married in Korea. I wonder how can I file for our divorce as she is in Korea but I am not living in Korea. I would prefer uncontested but would go with a contested divorce if necessary. But I am living in the UK. Can you tell me what process I should pursue?

A) At the outset, as your wife lives in Korea, you can file for divorce to a Korean Family Court.  Even if your wife does not have a Korean nationality, it is still the same. But you probably need to hire a Korean legal counsel who can represent you in the court, as you are not living in Korea and more importantly you might not be familiar with how the divorce works in Korea. With that said, if you hire a Korean divorce attorney, you are not required to come to Korea nor to attend the court.  Your Korean divorce attorney will handle everything for you.

The next issue will be which nation’s divorce law will govern your case, when you file for divorce in Korea.  If your wife is a Korean, then the Korean divorce law shall be the governing law.  If your wife is a UK citizen, then the divorce law of the UK shall apply.

When the Korean divorce law becomes the governing law, in order to get a divorce decree, you have to show some types of justifiable causes for divorce under Korean law such as domestic violence, unchastity, etc.  Not surprisingly, the Korean court quite often issues a divorce ruling when it founds the marriage was irretrievably broken.  Common grounds (more…)