Russia has some of the world’s most liberal family laws and the divorce rate in the country is high compared to other nations. Getting a divorce in Russia can take no more than a few weeks and you can sometimes end your marriage in a single court procedure. However, a contested divorce can negatively impact you if you’re the ‘weaker’ party in financial terms when you divorce.
Russia divorce laws
There is only one official ground for divorce in Russia, namely that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and that you can no longer live together.
However, you can’t file for divorce if:
- you’re a wife and you are pregnant
- you have a child who is less than one year old
- divorce proceedings have started in another country.
There are two types of divorce in Russia: administrative divorces and judicial divorces.
In Russia, an administrative divorce allows you to get a divorce through the Civil Acts Registration Office (ZAGS).
This type of divorce is normally suitable if you have no children and if you have reached agreement on issues such as your finances. An administrative divorce can also be granted if one spouse is imprisoned for at least 3 years or has been legally declared as missing.
Under an administrative divorce, the court may insist on a ‘cooling-off’ period of 3 months. If you still wish to get a divorce at the end of this period, your divorce will go ahead.
If you have a child under the age of 18, or you don’t agree on matters pertaining to your divorce, you will have to go through the Russian judicial divorce procedure.
Under this process, the court will make rulings on issues such as child custody, maintenance and the division of your assets.
One of you must file the divorce petition, and you will both need legal representation to attend court.
Child custody in Russia after divorce
Typically, the court in Russia will award custody of children to the mother if you divorce. Fathers can make their case for custody and contact at a divorce hearing, but courts will rarely award joint custody.
A court will listen to the wishes and feelings of your child if they are aged 10 or older.
If your child lives with the other parent after divorce, you will have to pay child maintenance until your child is an adult. You will pay 25% of your income for one child, 33% for two children or 50% for three or more children.
Since October 2011, Russia has been a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This convention aims to ensure that children who have been ‘abducted’ from one convention country to another are located and returned to their normal country of residence.
There have been cases where Russia has been found to have failed to comply with the measures required under the Hague Convention. For example, the European Court of Human Rights decreed in 2013 that Russia had breached a mother’s human rights because it took the authorities three years to reunite a child with his mother.
Financial settlements following divorce in Russia
When you get divorced in Russia you will normally have to divide any assets that you acquired during the time that you were married.
You can come to a financial agreement yourselves and have this certified by a notary. Alternatively, a court can make awards for you.
The parent who has custody of your child will normally be given any joint assets that you acquired for your child. Anything you acquired wile married will be divided equally, with the exception of personal belongings and gifts from family and friends.
Anything that you acquired prior to marriage will be excluded when a court divides your assets. Note that courts will typically only consider assets which are based in Russia.
While child maintenance is dealt with by the court (see above), alimony or spousal support is rarely awarded by a court in Russia. Awards are generally restricted to cases where a spouse is pregnant, is the carer of a very young child, is past retirement age or is disabled.
Where an award is made, it is designed to support your basic needs, rather to ensure you maintain the same standard of living as you enjoyed while you were married.
The rules in Russia can often negatively affect the weaker economic party, particularly if one spouse has assets off-shore or in other jurisdictions, or because it is unlikely that a spousal maintenance award will be made.
If you stayed at home looking after your children while your spouse worked, for example, you may find that any settlement is less generous when compared to awards made in other countries.
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