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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Few Hitches in Getting Unhitched

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First, the charmingly unidiomatic declarations of love, the cautious congratulations from friends and family, the delight at every little reminder that you and your new Russian spouse come not only from different countries, but also from different worlds.

And if the delight gives way to a desire never to share a breakfast table again -- as it does for two-thirds of Russian-foreign couples, according to Rossiiskaya Gazeta -- there may be some consolation in learning that the slate can be swept clean for about the price of three long-stemmed red roses.

For a no-fault divorce between a childless multinational couple in Russia, the two need only prepare a joint statement declaring their intention to divorce and present it to the registry office, or ZAGS, where they were first married or where the Russian spouse resides. The registry office will then issue an annulment.

"If both parties agree and there are no children involved, it's really that easy," said Yekaterina Kalashnikova, a Russian lawyer who specializes in family and divorce law.

Michele Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, was married to a Russian man. In 1996, she and her then-husband went to the ZAGS nearest his Moscow residence to file for a divorce.

"It wasn't an onerous process at all," she said. "We signed something saying we had no material claims against each other, and a month later we came back and picked up the certificates.

"The woman did look at us like we were nuts because we were relatively cheerful about the whole thing."

If the couple has a child under the age of 18, a court appearance is required, Kalashnikova said. But again, barring property or custody disputes, the process tends to be quick and painless. The court will set a hearing date one to two months from the date of application, and a divorce will be granted during the hearing. The presence of lawyers is not required, and the court fee is a mere 200 rubles ($7).

As far as the division of property goes, Kalashnikova said, "The basic rule is that all the items obtained during the marriage can be split 50-50." Property each party owned before the marriage remains separate.

As with divorces anywhere in the world, disputes often arise precisely over this issue, and the greater the amount of money involved, the more bitter the dispute tends to be. In January 2004, during the highly publicized divorce between American millionaire Scott Nicol and Russian former golf star Maya Kucherkova, a Russian court froze the assets of a Russian Nestle subsidiary from which Nicol had netted $52 million.

One way to avoid such disputes, said Vladimir Lissniak, an attorney with the Pericles American Business and Legal Education Project, is a prenuptial agreement.

"It is a good idea approved by years of experience in Western countries," Lissniak said. "[It is] new for Russia, but it is already in use by new families."

Kalashnikova said that in her experience, prenuptial agreements were "quite frequent" in marriages between Russians and foreigners. "They're especially common when one of the parties is a businessperson" who wants to make sure that issues such as spousal and child alimony do not become contested in the event of a divorce, she said.

In the absence of such an agreement, the Family Code recommends the provision of one-fourth of a parent's monthly income for a single child, one-third for two children and half for three or more. Courts can change this amount at their discretion.

Custody and visitation disputes are "quite a complicated issue," Kalashnikova said, especially when a Russian mother has custody and the father is living abroad.

In such cases, "Russian courts are normally on the side of the mom," she said.

Sveta Graudt contributed reporting for this article.