Divorce in Russia

Divorce in Russia

Divorce is a complicated process both legally and morally. 

In this article we would like to consider the procedure for dissolving a marriage when one of the spouses is a citizen of Russia.

In practice, there are often difficulties in determining the country in which the parties could dissolve the marriage, as well as in determining the legislation that would apply.

Who Can File for Divorce in Russia

To dissolve a marriage on the territory of the Russian Federation at least one of the following  conditions must be fulfilled:

1. One of the spouses is a citizen of the Russian Federation.

2. The plaintiff has hisplace of residence on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Thus, if you are a foreign citizen, and your spouse is a citizen of the Russian Federation – the marriage can be dissolved on the territory of the Russian Federation.

If both spouses are foreign nationals, then to dissolve the marriage on the territory of the Russian Federation, the plaintiff must have a place of residence on the territory of the Russian Federation.

In Russia only Russian Law Applies

In many countries it’s possible to have a national court apply in foreign legislation. But if you decide to file for divorce in Russia, you will have to do so in accordance with Russian law.

International Treaties

Article 6 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation enshrines the principle of priority of international treaties over Russian family law. Therefore, if an international treaty contains other rules of divorce procedure than the Family Code of the Russian Federation, you should be guided by them firstly.

Russians Residing Outside of Russia

Article 160 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation says that a citizen of the Russian Federation residing outside the territory of the Russian Federation may dissolve a marriage with a spouse residing outside the territory of the Russian Federation regardless of his/her citizenship in a court of the Russian Federation.

But if both spouses of an international couple reside in the Russian Federation, such divorce proceedings are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Russian courts. The divorce should take place in the Russian Federation.

 At which authority in Russia should you apply for a divorce?

If the dissolution of marriage will take place on the territory of the Russian Federation, there are several competent authorities to apply to. For each there are different conditions of application.

Registry Office (ZAGS)

The ‘easy divorces’ in Russia are taken care of by the registry office.

Dissolution of marriage between a foreign citizen and a citizen of the Russian Federation may take place in the registry office if the following conditions are met:

1.     There is no dispute between the spouses: both spouses agree with the decision to divorce and do not prevent it

2.     the absence of underage children.

3.     the absence of property disputes.

If both spouses (a foreign citizen and a Russian citizen) are in Russia, they prepare and sign a joint application together and collect the following package of documents to file at the Registry Office:

⁃ The marriage certificate (in order for the Russian registry office to accept it, this certificate must be legalized)

Passports of both spouses

Receipt of payment of the state duty

After having submitted these documents to the registry office, the marriage will be dissolved within 30 days.

If one of the spouses is not in Russia

If one of the spouses is not in Russia, there are several options:

1. the foreign citizen draws up an application according to the Russian form and notarizes his/her signature on it. Then sends it to Russia by mail.  The Russian spouse draws up his/her copy of the application, attaches a copy of the other spouse and other documents and then sends it all to the Registry Office. 

2.      The spouse who is a citizen of Russia must travel to the other spouse’s country of residence and divorce him or her at a Russian consulate or diplomatic mission. The procedure for ending the marriage in this case is similar to that of the Registry Office.

Divorce at a Court

The dissolution of a marriage between a foreign citizen and a citizen of the Russian Federation must take place in court if there is a dispute, if one of the spouses does not agree to the divorce, and if the couple has who are minors of age.

As we reported above, if both spouses have their place of residence in the Russian Federation, the case for dissolution of marriage will be considered by the Russian court. But if both spouses reside outside the territory of the Russian Federation, this does not prevent the dissolution of the marriage in court in Russia.

Cooldown period

At its discretion, the court may grant a three-month period to resume relations and reconciliation, if the judge considers that the marriage with the foreigner can be saved and if one of the spouses protests against the divorce, insisting on maintaining relations.

Documents needed for a divorce at a Russian court

To dissolve a marriage in court in the Russian Federation, the following documents must be prepared:

1. the petition for divorce

2.      Documents, confirming the circumstances on which the claims are based. These documents can include originals or duly certified copies of certificates of marriage, birth of children (similarly with the registry office, the documents must be legalized, if, for example, the marriage was concluded not in the territory of the Russian Federation)

3.      Document confirming payment of the state fee.

4.      Documents confirming that the documents were sent to the second spouse.

Settle if you can

If you were able to agree with your spouse about determining the order of communication with the children, about alimony and all property disputes, the best option would be enter into a settlement agreement at the court. In this agreement you can determine all the details, comfortable to both parties. If a settlement cannot be reached, the court will determine this at its discretion based on the documents provided.

Divorcing at the Russian Consulate abroad

It is possible to dissolve a marriage between a foreign citizen and a citizen of the Russian Federation at the consulate on similar grounds as the dissolution of a marriage in the registry office. So this is possible if the couple has no children, no disputes about property and both spouses agree to the divorce.

Property Disputes and Divorce in the Russian Federation

If you have decided to dissolve your marriage in the Russian Federation, and all the conditions for applying Russian law are met, then you need to know the basic provisions that apply when dividing property, as well as when determining the order and place of residence of common minor children and the payment of alimony for them in accordance with the Laws of Russia.

Marriage Contracts and Alimony Agreements

First of all, it is worth saying that if you have a marriage contract, then the rules of this contract apply. However, there are nuances here. A marriage contract concluded in another country with a foreign citizen will be valid in the territory of Russia, if it does not contradict the fundamentals of the legal order of the Russian Federation. However, its use will require either consular legalization or apostille. 

According to the Family Code of the Russian Federation, spouses who do not have the same citizenship or common residence may choose the legislation to be applied to the marriage contract or alimony agreement. If the spouses have not chosen a jurisdiction for the marriage contract or to their agreement on the payment of alimony, the personal non-property and property rights and obligations of the spouses are determined by the law of the State in whose territory they have a common place of residence, and if there is no common place of residence, by the law of the State in whose territory they had their last common place of residence. Personal non-property and property rights and obligations of the spouses who have not resided together shall be determined on the territory of the Russian Federation by the legislation of the Russian Federation.

Without a marriage contract

If there is no marriage contract, it is important to know the basic rule – in accordance with Russian law, all property acquired during the marriage is subject to division upon dissolution of the marriage (regardless of whether both spouses worked and invested their money in it or only one), and the property acquired before the marriage – is not subject to division. 

However, there are a number of items that will not be divided:

1.     Personal belongings: items of personal closet, personal hygiene, etc.

2.     Property received as a gift or by inheritance.

That is conventionally, if you gave your wife a car during the marriage (under a gift agreement), then upon dissolution of the marriage, the car will not be subject to division.

If the spouses have bank deposits, they are divided in exactly the same way as other property: equally, regardless of whose name they are in. This rule applies to those deposits that were opened during the marriage or are made from money earned during the marriage.

Division of Debts

Debts are also subject to division. But here you can build your case and prove that the consent of the second spouse was not obtained, and the money borrowed was not spent on the needs of the family. In this case, the court may find that the debt is not subject to division.

Determining the Value of the Property that Has to be Divided

So how do you determine the value of property subject to division? It’s very simple to tell it with an example:

1.      If you are dividing furniture and you have kept receipts, in that case you will need to provide them.

2. if you are dividing a car, in which case you will have to go to an appraisal company, which will issue its opinion on the value of a particular car as a result of the inspection.

Disputes about children

If the parents cannot agree with whom their minor child should live, the said dispute is to be resolved in court based on the interests of the children and taking their opinion into account. In such cases the court takes into consideration the age of the child, its attachment to each parent, his or her brothers, sisters and other family members, the parents’ moral and other personal qualities, the parent-child relationship, the child’s upbringing and development, and many other factors.

In most cases Russian courts decide that children, especially minor children, should live with their mother. However, this does not mean that the father does not stand a chance. In this case, the father must prove to the court that there are exceptional circumstances that do not allow, based on the interests of the children, to leave them with their mother.

Better to Reach Agreement Than to Let the Court Decide 

Let’s imagine a situation where the court ordered that the child should live with his mother, now it is necessary to agree to an arrangement for the father to see his child. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will determine the order of communication at its discretion, and this can be completely inconvenient for either parent. 

Parents have an obligation to support their minor children. In the absence of an agreement on the payment of alimony for minor children, the court shall collect alimony from their parents on a monthly in the following way: for one child – one quarter, for two children – one third, for three or more children – half of the earnings and (or) other income of the parents. Here it is also possible to make an agreement to pay with your own amounts and terms of payment.

Final provisions

Dissolution of marriage between a foreign citizen and a citizen of the Russian Federation in most cases can be carried out both on the territory of the Russian Federation and on the territory of a foreign country. Each situation is individual and requires study of international agreements between the countries of which the spouses have citizenship.

If you found this post helpful, you might also want to look at our post about the Terms and Conditions of Marriage in Russia.

At Van Rhijn & Partners we have the necessary expertise and international mindset to help our clients through difficult divorces. 
Contact us  with your questions or leave a comment below.

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