Information on Marriage & Divorce for Refugees in Turkey
Legal Requirements for Marriage in Turkey
In general, marriage in Turkey must be between a man and a woman who are both single (unmarried), fully consenting, and 18 years of age or older (although exceptions may apply).
Things You Should Know About Registering Your Marriage
You should apply to the Marriage Department of the municipality where you or your fiancé is registered.
You must notify the Population and Civil Registry Department (Nüfus ve Vatandaşlık İşleri Müdürlüğü) and the Provincial Directorate for Migration Management (İl Göç İdaresi Müdürlüğü) of any changes in your civil status within 20 working days.
In general, if your marriage is officially recognized in your country of origin, it will also be recognized and valid in Turkey.
Things You Should Know About Getting a Divorce
You can file for divorce even if your marriage took place in you country of origin.
A divorce requires a court procedure and court judgement in order to be final.
Only a judge has the legal authority to decide on the custody of a child after a divorce.
You should notify the Population and Civil Registry Department (Nüfus ve Vatandaşlık İşleri Müdürlüğü) of any changes in your civil status.
You must notify the Provincial Directorate for Migration Management (İl Göç İdaresi Müdürlüğü) of any changes to your civil status within 20 working days.
You can receive assistance from the bar association’s legal aid service in your province for divorce and custody proceedings.
International protection applicants, international protection status holders and persons under temporary protection have the right to marry in Turkey if they have completed their registration with the General Directorate of Migration Management. Marriage and all other related proceedings are subject to the Turkish Civil Code and other applicable legislation.
An official or civil marriage is a form of marriage which must be performed by legally designated officials in accordance with the law. Please be aware that although religious or customary marriage ceremonies are allowed in Turkey, they are not legally binding.
In Turkey, a marriage ceremony can be performed between a freely and fully consenting man and woman. Persons wishing to marry must be bachelor at the time they apply for the marriage. In Turkey, the legal age for marriage is 18. Persons who have turned 17 can marry when there is parental consent or an approval of their legal guardians; under exceptional circumstances, persons who turned 16 may be granted a permission to marry by the court.
In addition, persons wishing to marry must have “legal capacity.” Under Turkish Civil Code, persons lack “legal capacity” if they have not attained the age of majority or lack the ability to discern (i.e. the ability to act rationally and to distinguish right from wrong) as a result of a mental illness, weakness of mind, intoxication or of other similar reasons. In this connection, it is important to emphasize that a mental illness does not necessarily constitute a barrier to the marriage in and of itself. In other words, for a mental illness to prevent marriage, it must significantly affect the ability to discern. Thus, persons struggling with a mental illness are also entitled to the right to marry by obtaining an official health report which shows that it is not a medical impediment.
Under Turkish law, close kinship is another barrier to marriage. A marriage between immediate family members, between some close relatives (aunts and uncles cannot marry their nieces or nephews, or ex-spouses cannot marry each other’s parents or children), and between an adoptee and an adopted person (and each other’s’ ex-spouses or children) are all prohibited.
Persons wishing to marry in Turkey should apply to Marriage Departments under municipalities in the province where one of the persons wishing to marry is registered. Both persons must be present at the time of application.
The safest way is to approach the Marriage Department and ask for a full list of required documents. However, you will typically be required to present the following: the petition of marriage, identity documents, health reports, passport-size photographs, and the certificate of celibacy. If you have an official document issued by the authorities of your country of origin showing your civil status, it is important to present this document as well. However, persons who do not have such documents may apply to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management and obtain a certificate of celibacy.
Please also make sure you have an official identity document issued by the General Directorate of Migration Management at the time of application.
Which forms of marriage are legally binding in Turkey? Who can perform a marriage ceremony in Turkey?
As stated above, only a civil marriage performed in accordance with the law and by legally designated officials is valid in Turkey.
Yes, your civil status which you have acquired in your country of origin is considered valid in Turkey. That is, if your marriage is officially recognized in your country of origin, it will also be valid in Turkey.
All changes in your civil status must be notified to the Population and Civil Registry Department and Provincial Directorate of Migration Management within 20 work days.
There is an entry error on my civil status in the identity document issued to me by the General Directorate of Migration Management. What should I do for correction?
For all entry errors in your identity document, you must apply to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management. If you have a document in proof of your civil status, please also present this document at the time of application.
For birth registration, you should apply to the Population and Civil Registry Department latest within 30 days after the birth. Please be aware that there is no difference between a birth in marriage and a birth outside of marriage, and this shall have no adverse effect on either the child or on either of the parents.
If the birth has taken place in a health institution, officials of this institution may also notify the birth to the relevant authorities. But it is still important to make sure that the notification has been duly made. However, if the birth has taken place in another setting, you may also make the notification based on your oral statement. In such cases, authorities have the right to initiate an investigation to verify your statement. In addition, it is important to register your newborn with the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management.
In Turkey, dissolution of a marriage can only be decided by the court. If you want to file for divorce, you should apply to the relevant competent court and submit a divorce petition. Benefiting from the assistance of a lawyer can be highly critical in this procedure. Please be aware that if you would like to receive legal assistance or counselling from a lawyer, you will be required to pay lawyer’s fee and in addition you may be required to pay possible court fees.
However, if you are unable to afford a lawyer’s fee, you may approach the bar association in the province where you are registered and request legal aid. A bar association is the professional public body of lawyers. Under each bar association, there is a Legal Aid Bureau established to provide free-of-charge legal aid and assistance services to persons who cannot afford lawyer and court fees. All persons seeking international protection, persons having an international protection status, persons under temporary protection as well as stateless individuals are entitled to benefit from the services of Legal Aid Bureaus in Turkey. You are, however, required to make an application and provide several documents explaining and/or in proof of your demand. For a detailed information, please contact the local bar association in the province where you are registered.
Yes, you can file for divorce in Turkey even if you have married in your country of origin. However, please be aware that divorce procedures will be subject to Turkish law.
You may still file for divorce from an absent spouse; however, as a general rule, it is a must for both parties to participate in divorce proceedings. The absence of your spouse will therefore lead to delays in the divorce proceedings.
In Turkey, only a judge has the legal authority to decide on the custody of a child after a divorce. The judge will therefore either order joint custody or award sole custody to one of the parents.
Since this is also a change in your civil status, as stated above, you should notify this change to the Population and Civil Registry Department and Provincial Directorate of Migration Management within 20 work days.
Persons can re-marry after divorce. However, there is a 300-days enforced waiting period requirement for women whose marriage has been dissolved for any reason, and that this mandatory waiting period will not be imposed if a woman can produce a medical report showing that she is not pregnant. There is no such waiting period requirement for men.