Government Offices

The Notaris...


For more about the notaris see Tabulujan.

The office of the Notaris should also be included in the list of government officials.

The Notaris is not identical to the “notary public” found in many Common Law countries, and so we have chosen to use the term Notaris throughout this website to avoid confusion.

The Notaris is a state legal officer in private practice. The Notaris can write up and witness contracts. Non-Indonesians often mistake the Notaris as a sort of lawyer specializing in contracts, but under law the Notaris is NOT authorized to give legal advice, and this includes advice about whether the contract they are witnessing is fair or reasonable.

And so the frequent reassurance that “it must be okay because the Notaris agreed to it and witnessed it” is absolutely pointless. The Notaris is certifying that the contract is valid, not that it is fair or that the stories your partner told you in justification for the contract are true.

We do know some Notaris who refuse to prepare blatantly exploitative documents, or who try to find ways to warn victims. But they are limited by professional guidelines in what they can say, and victims unfamiliar with Indonesian law may have difficulty understanding the Notaris’s warnings—even assuming the Notaris speaks English. Also, clients who find a Notaris uncooperative will simply take their business elsewhere; the client probably already vetted the Notaris during initial preparation of documents before the meeting for signatures.


Can you cancel a Notaris agreement you already signed because you were stupid?

Actually, you can.

Basic contract law, including in Indonesia, says that any contract must be fully disclosed and understood by both parties to be valid.

If you don't speak Indonesian, the contract must be translated so you can understand it clearly before signing.

Misrepresentation by one party to the contract is basis for a criminal complaint of fraud.

So technically, yes, a Notaris agreement acquired through fraud can be declared void by law through a court order.

In practice, this is difficult. It’s probably not going to happen. Try not to be stupid.


Suggestions for protecting your documents

Indonesian law has a peculiar definition of bukti or evidence based on formalism as discussed earlier. A Notaris can prepare a second copy of an agreement with duplicate stamps so that both you and the other party have valid and legal copies. Don’t accept just a single copy to be held only by your partner.

The BPN or Land Office can also legalizir copies of land certificates or Sertifikat Hak Milik so that they are equally admissible in a court of law as the original certificate. Although foreigners cannot obtain Sertifkat Hak Milik in their own names, land owned by a Indonesian spouse is included as community property in marriage or as corporate property in a business partnership. There is no reason you should not have your own copy.


As suggested minimal, and probably not entirely effective, measures for safety:

  • Keep a photocopy of every document you sign, countersigned directly with the signature of the person who helped prepare the document or who is the other party to the document that this is a true copy;
  • if the purpose or wording or the document is unclear, and of course if it is in Indonesian and you are not entirely fluent in Indonesian, obtain a signed letter from the counter party in English explaining the purpose or meaning of the document;
  • obtain clear and signed copies of your marriage certificate and your children's birth certificates whether occuring in Indonesia or overseas together with signed statements from your spouse as to the authenticity of these documents and the admittedly legality of the marriage and the births;
  • keep the countersigned or authenticated copies of all these documents NOT in a business or family safe, but in a personal and private lockbox in a bank. Most disputes are with a partner or spouse, and if the documents you kept so carefully disappear from your shared safe before the battle begins, only your opponent will be able to produce documents.

To any objection from partner or spouse that these measures show lack of trust, one could respond that there is no reason a partner or spouse should have any reluctance to provide these documents.

Whether they would be effective in a court battle—after all, police and judges can simply ignore you and rule in favor of the false documents anyway—is not guaranteed, but they wouldn't hurt.