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Family Law: divorce proceedings, conclusion of marriage (Russia)
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Question

Dear Ms. Krasnova and Team,

My name is Susan. I am a US citizen. My future husband Max is a Russian citizen. We have a question about marriage jurisdiction, pre-nups and inheritance.

Basically I want to know if there is a way to sign a pre-nup either under Russian or US law (or both) which would state that any inheritance I might receive from my old father (non-property) when he dies is mine ONLY and cannot be claimed by my husband.

Background...

Max and I were planning on getting married in Russia and then eventually moving to the US. We were going to do this because we have been told by friends that it is much faster and easier than the fiancé-visa route. My father, however, is concerned about this idea: he does not want the jurisdiction of the marriage to be Russian because he is afraid that if he dies soon and leaves me a non-property inheritance (cash, bonds) that part of his gift could be claimed by my future husband and expatriated to Russia.

I would still prefer to get married in Russia and NOT to go the fiancé route, if it is possible to sign some sort of pre-nup that would be valid in both jurisdictions.

Reading your website, I have learnt that US pre-nups are only valid for those articles which correspond to Russian law (so could we sign a Russian pre-nup?). I've also learnt that RESIDENCE is the main factor in determining a marriage's jurisdiction. On this point I am afraid, though, because I do not own property in the US, but Max does have property in Russia. If we were to live in a rented apt. in the US, could he still claim that our residence was in Russia? If not, how long would we have to rent the apt. for in the US to establish residence there? What if we moved around between Switzerland and the US (I may begin work in Geneva soon)? How would our residence be determined in that situation?

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Answer

Pursuant to the Russian law, the property received by way of gift, inheritance or under any other gratuitous deal is recognized as the property of the spouse to whom the property was granted or by whom is was inherited. In terms of the Russian law, the property of your father is out of danger. I believe that a spouse upon divorce in any country cannot divide the legacy, but I think that this matter may be specified additionally in the agreement.

It makes sense to sign a pre-nup in the country, where you are intending to reside. If it is the USA (which state?), you should sign the agreement in that particular state. I can send you to an attorney, who will make up the agreement for you taking into account your wishes and requirements to each other.

You may sign a marriage contract in Russia as well in respect of the property, which you are planning to acquire in Russia in the future. The marriage contract in Russia may be entered at any time within the marriage period, whenever the necessity will arise, and you will decide to acquire Russian property or open accounts with the Russian banks.

I believe that the pre-nup signed in the USA will be recognized in Russia, unless it contains provisions conflicting with the Russian law. However I would recommend you to sign two separate contracts in the USA and in Russia – if the property is available in both countries.

As regards the residence. Unfortunately, pursuant to the Russian law traditionally dating back to the soviet period the residence of a Russian Federation citizen has been understood as the place of his registered residence. Up to now the judicial practice is adhering to this position. Therefore as long as your husband is a Russian citizen and has residence registration within the Russian Federation, in terms of the Russian law he will be considered residing in Russia and being under its jurisdiction. This fact will allow him, if required, to dissolve the marriage in the Russian Federation.

But the available residence of your husband does not imply your residence in Russia: being a foreign citizen you have to comply with the visa regime within the Russian Federation.

If you are going to reside and work in the USA and Switzerland simultaneously, you may find the answer to your question here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/swiss.pdf .

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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