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Family law : divorce and division of property. (USA)
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Question

Facts:

1. I married my wife in 1999 in the USA and we have been resident in USA since 1999.

2. We are now going through separation and divorce proceedings under US law.

3. In 2003 we bought an apartment in St. Petersburg. 50% of the money (around US$120’000) came from the sale of an apartment owned jointly by my wife and her mother the other 50% came from me.

4. I know the address of the apartment but I have no documents belonging to the apartment – they were all taken by my wife. But since then I have obtained a professional valuation of the apartment and a certificate from the official registry that shows the apartment is registered 50:50 in the name of my wife and her mother. My wife does not know that I have these documents (the Russian title of the document showing ownership is “Управление Федеральной Регистрационной Службы по Санкт-Петербургу и Ленинградской Области / Выписка из Единого Государственного Прав на Недвижимое Имущество и Сделок с Ним”

5. There is a second property which is a room in a Kommunalka in St. Petersburg. My wife has also taken all the documents to this property and unfortunately I do not know the address.

6. It is possible that my wife has bought a third property in St. Petersburg – I have no proof, this is only a suspicion because I recently discovered she has probably transferred around US$120’000 to Russia in 2007

7. Under US law any property is divided between the spouses on divorce. Any property owned before the marriage is kept by the respective spouse and is not divided.

Questions:

1. Would the decision of a US court be of any relevance to a Russian court?

2. The divorce is taking place in US so what kind of case could be opened in Russia?

3. Must I be present?

4. What papers from me are required?

5. How can I stop my wife disposing of the properties (selling, changing the ownership, withholding documents etc.)?

6. How to get my wife to give me the details of the second property (the room in a kommunalka)?

7. When would be the appropriate time to start an action?

8. How long would the action take?

9. What would be the approximate costs (court costs plus lawyer’s fees)?

10. The mother of my wife lives in the apartment and the uncle of my wife lives in the kommunalka – does this have any effect?

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Answer

Pursuant to the Russian law, any disputes as regards real estate located within Russia fall under exclusive jurisdiction of the Russian court.

Therefore the judgement of US court as regards the separation of Russian real estate will be illegible within Russia. But the divorce decree made in USA will be recognized in the Russian Federation.

Even now before adjudgement on the merits in USA you are entitled to apply to the Russian court claiming division of jointly acquired property. Simultaneously with the filing of suit you may apply for requesting the required information, and for imposing of arrest on property (prohibition of property alienation) before the trial on the merits.

It is not a problem, if you do not know the addresses of all real properties in Saint Petersburg: based on your petition the court may make the necessary inquiries and obtain information about the composition of available properties.

You should know that, if the spouses resided separately, even though the property was acquired during the marriage, is may be recognized as the property of the spouse who had acquired the property.

You should also know that the property acquired for account of the funds received before the marriage, may be also recognized as the property of the spouse whose funds were used for its acquisition.

The above specified circumstances need evidence. According to general rule the property acquired during the marriage is divided into 1/2 for each spouse. If you want to change the ratio you have to prove numerous facts and circumstances.

Answers to your questions:

1. Judgement of the US court as regards the marriage dissolution will be recognized in Russia. Judgement of the US court as regards other facts may be recognized in Russia in the result of court judgement on recognition and enforcement of a foreign court judgement. As for the division of real estate, I think, that it makes sense from the very beginning to bring this issue before the Russian court, but the USA one.

2. In Russia you may apply to the court with the claims, which are not considered by the US court. It is not allowed to apply with the similar claims to different courts.

3. Your presence during the case consideration is not required. The court may oblige a plaintiff or a defendant to appear before the court in exceptional circumstances. According to general rule the presence of attorney-at-law authorized by you power of attorney will be sufficient.

4. First of all you have to execute a power of attorney certified by the Russian consulate or notarized + apostille. A copy of your passport is also required, a copy of your marriage certificate or divorce certificate with apostille and translation into Russian. The name and address of your wife is required. Other documents may be also required depending on the circumstances you are intending to prove. In my turn, I will prepare the petition to the court requesting to find out the real properties registered in the name of your wife and to impose arrest on the property. Copies of documents at your disposal and information about the disputed property are required.

5. For this purpose you should apply to the court and impose arrest on the property.

6. You need not make your wife provide you with the information about the property. The court will obtain the required information according to your petition.

7. The sooner you begin the case, the more are the chances to retain the property and prevent its selling by your wife or re-registration in the names of other persons.

8. The consideration of such cases takes a long time: six months and more.

9. Upon filing a suit you should pay a state duty which is calculated on the basis of the suit price.

As for attorney’s fee. This matter is rather expensive. So could you, please, specify the amount you would like to fit within? – I will try to take you requests into account, whenever possible. The fee may based on hourly rate or we may discuss a certain percentage of the property value.

In any case, now you should define the composition of your property, and impose arrest as soon as possible to prevent your wife’s disposal of the property before the court judgement.

I will be glad to help you.

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.
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