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

I am an American citizen and My wife is Russian. We were married in Moscow 5 years ago. She immigrated to America. Our time together was not pleasant because she was never satisfied with anything. Even though I have a very good income, there was never enough money to satisfy her. Nothing was ever good enough. She was not affectionate and certainly not passionate in any way often refusing sexual relations with me. It is obvious that she married me for a green card, for money and for material goods.

Last October, I sent her back to home to St. Petersburg where she remains today. I had hoped that this would affect a change in her attitude but it has not. So, how do I get divorced from her in Russia? Do I have to appear in Russia? Does she have to agree to the divorce?

The only community property we have is our house in America. She took the money from our joint bank account ($20000) with her when she left. The equity in our house is about the same as the cash. So, I believe that I should get the house. She does not live here any more and it is best if she does not return. She now lives with her family in Saint Petersburg which is exactly where she was before our marriage.

We do not have children. We do not have a pre-nup agreement.

Questions for our consultation:

My wife is in Saint Petersburg & I am in New York. Do we file for divorce in Moscow? We were married in Moscow.

If she agrees to the divorce, it becomes an administrative process, right?

She won't agree because she wants a big cash settlement - above the $20000 she already took.

What happens if she does not respond?

The only community property we have is our house. Is it possible that the court would award that to me? There is about $40000 equity that all came from my earnings.

We were married only 5 years and 3 of them were terrible. About how much would court awarded monthly alimony be? For how long? She's lives with her mother - which is exactly where I found her 5 years ago.

What documents am I required to provide? I may not have our original marriage certificate but I certainly have a copy.

How quickly can you file for the divorce?

How long until it's over?

I assume that I have to appear in court - which is an expensive trip. It would be better to settle out of court (cash bonus, no alimony, I get the house).

I am afraid that if we go to court, my wife will start ranting & screaming charging me with all kinds of abuse & atrocities (that is her style & she's good at it). My fear is that I get arrested in Russia for charges my wife makes. Is that possible? I cannot count the times that she threatened to call the police or go to my office and start screaming or go to the neighbors & start screaming. This extortion technique was employed by her any time she ran out of money and demanded more. She should be in the mafia.


You will have to obtain divorce in Saint Petersburg, at the place of residence of your wife. The place of registration of the marriage is of no relevance, divorce shall be obtained at the place of residence of one of the spouses.

If your wife agrees to divorce, you may dissolve your marriage in a Vital Records Office, i.e. by administrative rather than judicial means. However, I advise my clients to obtain divorces by judicial means. A divorce granted by court has many benefits compared to a divorce granted by a Vital Records Office.

The advantage of a Russian divorce compared to a US divorce is that according to the Russian laws, the court is not obliged to settle property distribution matters during divorce proceedings. Therefore, the fact that your wife wants to get as much money from you as possible as a result of marital property distribution will not impede the divorce itself.

If your wife does not agree to dissolve the marriage, the court may grant a reconciliation period at your wife’s request. Upon expiration of such period the marriage will be dissolved in any event.

Your wife is entitled not to reply to your action for divorce. In such case the court shall make sure that your wife was notified of the date of hearing of the case and was served the divorce papers. If the defendant fails to appear before the court without a valid reason or the defendant fails to notify the court of the reason for its absence and did not apply for adjournment of proceedings, the court may deliver the judgment as early as at the first court session.

I would not advise you to settle the property distribution matters in Russian courts if you and your wife have disagreements regarding these matters. First, it will extend the divorce proceedings significantly. Second, the Russian court will not be able to assess foreign property accurately and fairly. The property owned by you in the USA shall be distributed by the US courts. You may file a relevant claim to the US court by submitting the Russian judgment of divorce. As your wife left the USA and does not reside in your marital residence; as she withdrew the money from your joint account approximately amounting to her share in the marital property, I think you have every chance to obtain sole ownership of the house. However, you will have to obtain a US lawyer to handle these matters.

There is no chance that the Russian courts will grant spousal support to your wife. According to the Russian laws only a number of categories of people (handicapped people, pregnant women, women with children below 3 years of age, etc.) are entitled to spousal support. I suppose your wife does not fall under any of these categories.

The original marriage certificate is required in order to file a claim in the Russian courts. I have already applied to the Vital Records Office for issue of the certificate on your behalf. You will also need to issue a power of attorney appointing attorneys to represent you in the court and make the payment.

We can start the divorce proceedings as soon as the marriage certificate is obtained.

It usually takes 3-4 months to obtain a divorce.

You don’t need to appear before the court, I will be able to perform all procedures without your presence. During the divorce proceedings you and your wife may come to an agreement regarding distribution of property. But if the agreement is not reached the court will dissolve your marriage in any case.

You don’t need to come to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. I will obtain divorce on your behalf and send you the divorce papers.

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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