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

Dear Karina:

I have been looking at your website and can see that you give very helpful advice and information to people in difficult and confusing situations.

I am American and my husband is Russian. We were married in Moscow, where we were living at the time, but after a couple of years we moved to the United States, where we settled and raised a family.

We are now planning to divorce – there are no minor children involved and we have agreed privately how to divide our assets.

We thought it would be logical to file the papers in Russia since we were married there and we also have an apartment there, which is to go to my husband.

The Russian Embassy has advised that they can witness a statement from myself to enable my husband to lodge the papers in Moscow in my absence (he has agreed that they should be filed in my name on the grounds of his unreasonable behaviour).

However, we have also been advised to file in parallel in the United States, since we have our home here and a holiday apartment in Spain. Is this correct? Wouldn't one of the proceedings override the other?

I will be seeking advice here in the United States, but I would be very grateful for your opinion from the Russian legal point of view. I simply find it hard to believe that we can be divorced twice at the same time in different countries.

Thank you in anticipation.


As a general rule of the international private law, the place of marriage dissolution shall be the place of residence of the spouses or any of them. Property situs address is not taken into account for the purposes of laying the venue.

Thus, you are entitled to dissolve the marriage either in United States or in Russia (at your discretion). You have a right to choose the venue. Should you need any assistance in connection with the marriage dissolution in Russia, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Upon dissolution of the marriage you shall have the following documents:

1) Full text of apostilled judgment of divorce and translation thereof into English and Spainsh languages (if required);

2) Divorce Certificate. Though this document is mandatory in Russia, it is usually not required abroad as the marriage is considered dissolved at the date of the judgment of divorce becoming final, therefore the marriage dissolution is not related to obtaining of the divorce certificate.

The court is entitled to divide property (including property located abroad) along with the marriage dissolution if you request so. It means that the court has jurisdiction over your property wherever it is located only during the divorce proceedings. The court will lose jurisdiction over your property upon dissolution of the marriage and you will have to initiate property division proceedings in the country where such property is located, i.e. Spain. Spain, United States and other countries will recognize marriage dissolution that took place in Russia provided that your spouse’s rights were not infringed, i.e. he was duly notified of the place and the dates of hearings, he received divorce documents and had an opportunity to challenge such documents. In this case you will be able to lay claim to the property located in Spain within the relevant limitation period.

You will not have to obtain divorce in any other country if the marriage is dissolved in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation without any violation or breach.

Should you need my assistance in connection with the marriage dissolution, please do not hesitate to contact me. In order to assist you in marriage dissolution I will need the following documents and information from you: apostilled power of attorney, exact date and place of registration of the marriage. It is advisable to obtain your spouse’s consent to divorce, however, it is not mandatory as a will of one of the spouses is enough to initiate divorce proceedings (as opposed to registration of marriage).

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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