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Family law : divorce and division of property. (Russia)

I would like to seek legal advice on behalf of my brother. He is willing to get a divorce but he is in a complicated situation and does not know where to seek help and legal assistance.

Here is his story: my brother is an American citizen. In 2008, he married a Russian woman in St. Petersburg, a babygirl was born in 2009 in St. Petersburg, the baby is both American and Russian.

Due to serious reasons, my brother wants now to divorce. However, my brother is very attached to his 18 months old daughter and is afraid that his divorce will prevent him from seeing her. Indeed, my brother and his current wife live in Russia where they got married.

My brother does not speak Russian and it is very hard to find English speaking lawyers in St. Petersburg.

As he got married in Russia, he assumes that he will have to divorce in Russia, not in United States, is this right?

Also, if he divorces in Russia, do you know what the procedures are and what the chances are for him to get the shared custody for his daughter? He is ready to stay in Russia after the divorce just for the sake of his relationship with his daughter. He is very attached to her and is a fantastic father.

The main issue for my brother is the child's custody, how can he be sure that he will get a shared custody from Russian courts?

I hope you can provide me with some replies and legal advice as this is quite urgent.

If you need more details on this case, do not hesitate to contact me.

Many thanks in advance for your kind reply.


The first thing that should be noted with regard to your question is that neither U.S. nor Russia acknowledges dual citizenship. That is why the child will have only one citizenship. i.e. citizenship of Russia on the territory of Russia, and the citizenship of U.S. on the territory of U.S.

In the event of a dispute between the parents on the territory of Russia, preference will be given to the mother – citizen of Russia, and your brother will be able to pretend to only the right to visit his child.

His spouse will not be able to deprive him of the right to see his child. Subject to a request of your brother, the court will determine the procedure of realization of parental rights by the parent that lives separately from his child. Breach of this procedure may result in unfavorable consequences for his spouse, this is very serious.

However, at the same time, the court of Russia will not allow your brother to take the child out of Russia.

If your brother’s family moves to U.S.A., and your brother starts the divorce proceedings in U.S.A., in such case he can believe that in case of divorce of the parents the child – citizen of U.S. – will stay in U.S. Either with its mother or with its father – this is for the court to decide, however, this is a secondary matter in comparison with the country of residence of the child. I am sure that it will be easier for your brother to protect his interests in his own country.

This is a mistake that the marriage registered in Russia shall be dissolved only in Russia. This is not right. Place of registration of marriage is not essential for dissolution of marriage. Many marriages are registered even in some remote exotic countries, on exotic underpopulated islands. However, dissolution of marriage shall take place at the place of residence of spouses or one of the spouses. Place of residence is the main factor for dissolution of marriage and disputes with regard to the child. That is why before initiation of the divorce proceedings it is necessary to chose (if there is such a choice) the country, where consideration of the issue will be more favorable.

It is necessary to take into account that documents issued by authorities of one country shall be apostilled to be valid in another country.

Please, let us know about the city where your brother’s family lives. If your brother decides to initiate the divorce proceedings in Russia, we will be happy to help him.

Articles and consultations authored by attorney reflect the state of law as of the date of their writing. The laws change daily. Users of this site are advised to consult attorney regarding their situation.
Karina Duvall
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