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

Peter, male US citizen who lives in USA met Russian woman Inna in New York city and they had child in march 2002 born in USA, then Peter married her in Moscow in June 2003. Wife Inna came to USA with daughter from 2004-2006 and marriage didn’t work out and Inna moves back to Russia with child where they still live.

Peter would to get a divorce from Inna. Inna remains in Russia with child.

Can Peter file a divorce in USA but how does serve Inna in Moscow. Is American divorce valid in Moscow Russia? there is no real estate or property involved. A has been sending child support of around $500 a month us dollars to her but has stopped recently.

How is child support and visitation set does Peter need to retain you in Moscow to set visitation and child support. A has never paid Inna alimony but is Inna entitled to ask for same. As child resides in Russia I do not believe the courts in USA have any jurisdiction over the child and therefore does child support and visitation have to be decided in Russian court.

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Answer

Peter has two options: he can dissolve the marriage either in America or in Russia. Dissolution of a marriage in the USA is acknowledged in Russia and vice versa. No special procedure should be followed to this effect except for translation of documents into English and apostilization (if required).

I find it reasonable to settle all divorce and child related matters in Russia at the place of residence of the defendant. If he dissolves the marriage in the USA he should serve divorce documents to her in the manner acceptable to US courts. My partners or I can serve the documents to Inna and sign affidavit if such affidavit is acceptable by US courts (I’ve heard my New York colleagues saying that an affidavit may be signed only by a US resident. Is it true? Is there the same requirement in your state?). You may be able to serve the documents to her by Express mail (for example, DHL or FedEx). In any event the documents shall be served to Inna in the manner acceptable to US courts.

As for the child dispute, I don’t think it is in the jurisdiction of US courts. As far as I know a child is not in the jurisdiction of the USA if he/she has been living abroad for more than 6 months (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

However, if the child dispute is settled in a US court it will be quite difficult to enforce a decision of such court in the territory of Russia. As you know, there is no agreement on legal aid in civil and family cases between Russia and the USA, therefore such court decision will not be automatically acknowledged and enforced in the territory of the Russian Federation. It will take a lot of effort to enforce a decision of a US court in the territory of Russia. The court decision shall be legalized, apostilled and translated into Russian, a petition for acknowledgement and enforcement of the court decision shall be filed to a Russian court. In fact the Russian court will reexamine the case and deliver a new custody, child support and visitation judgment.

Therefore I think that your client should take legal actions and settle all matters in a Russian court. Visitation schedule will be fixed at your client’s request. But usually Russian courts are not willing to allow visitations outside the Russian Federation anticipating that a parent will not return the child to the territory of the Russian Federation. As you know the girl will be treated as a Russian citizen in Russia and a US citizen in the USA as neither Russia not the USA recognize dual citizenship.

The information you provided is contradictory: the letter dated the 17th of February states that the daughter was born in the USA but the letter dated the 8th of March states that she was born in Russia. The place of birth is of no importance to the settlement of the dispute but it is of the essence for execution of documents. If she was born in the USA your client shall obtain a certificate of her birth in a Vital Records Office at the place of her birth, apostille it and arrange a notarized translation thereof into Russian in Russia.

As for child support, it will be better if the parties are able to settle this matter (as well as custody and visitation) amicably as an amicable agreement between the parents will serve the best interests of the child. However, if the parents are not able to come to an agreement all abovementioned matters may be settled by court. Child support is 1/4 of total income.

But as I have already mentioned a decision of a Russian court is not legally binding in the territory of the USA and a decision of a US court is not legally binding in the territory of Russia. Therefore such court decision will not be enforced in the USA as recovery of child support in the USA differs from that in Russia. In order to enforce a decision of a Russian court in the USA Inna will have to submit the legalized decision of the Russian court in a US court and apply for recovery of child support in accordance with the US laws. It is a costly and time consuming procedure and it is reasonable only when the parties are not able to come to an agreement. An amicable agreement (if it’s possible) is the best way out for both parties.

One of the main advantages of an amicable agreement signed by the parties and approved by a court compared to a court decision is that it will be acknowledged in both countries and no special court procedure is required for that. In general child support is recovered from the date of application to the court.

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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