Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Russians and Prenups

Some interesting observations from the Moscow Times about the societal view of prenuptial agreements in Russia:

According to official state data, of the nearly 1.2 million Russian couples who registered marriages in 2009, only about 25,000 — or about 2 percent — sealed contracts stipulating the terms of a divorce.

And that's with roughly 58 percent of the country's marriages eventually falling apart.

In the United States, most estimates show that about 4 percent of couples now sign a prenuptial contract, although the divorce rate there is about 43 percent.

The contracts run afoul of Russia's more traditional approach to marriage, experts said. Few can bring themselves to strike a bargain over affairs of the heart.

The country's legal system only introduced the concept of a prenuptial agreement — or marriage contract, as its known in Russian — in 1996, said Alexander Latseiko, a spokesman for the Federal Notary Chamber.

In the Soviet era, there was little need for prenuptial agreements because most people had very little property to contest in a divorce, Tesler said.

But now, with a growing number of affluent Russians, more couples are deciding to settle a question that they hope will never arise.

In the last five years, the number of new marriage contracts has quadrupled from about 5,000 in 2005 to 25,000 in 2009, Latseiko said.

He said no social or age group was prevalent among those who turn to a lawyer before exchanging vows.

"Marriage contracts are the evidence of the country's prosperity," Tesler said.

Legislation on the contracts remains imperfect, however, as it only covers property rights, said Olesya Yermolenko, a lawyer at the Moscow firm Annexus. In the United States and Europe, similar laws also spell out household chores, alimony and the rights to children.

The idea is gradually taking hold, as a 2008 survey by Levada indicated. Of the 1,000 urbanites polled in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, 59 percent approved of splitting property in a marriage contract. Only 13 percent disapproved of it, while 15 percent admitted to not understanding property issues. Thirteen percent were undecided.

Read the full story here.


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