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Marriage Registration and Marriage Contracts for Foreigners in Ukraine

By Oleksandr Gubin & Olena Sibirtseva
Posted: 19th December 2022 08:39
International marriage is not something new in the modern world. Globalisation, immigration, and relocation have a great influence on the increasing number of cosmopolitan families. We want to bring your attention to the legal side of such relations. Below we will touch the most popular points, which both spouses should keep in mind to avoid unnecessary troubles and obstacles.
All about marriage
Registration of marriage is a hot topic for those looking to start a family. While it is not as easy to officially register the marriage as it is in Vegas, registration in Ukraine is still a rather stress-free procedure. Having experienced a lot of family-related prejudices in our practice, we have decided to break some of the myths that are out there with our seven tips regarding marriage issues in Ukraine.
  1. Ukrainian family law establishes similar requirements for the persons intended to enter a marriage whether one or both parties are foreigners or not. Thus, it is clearly possible for both future spouses to be foreign citizens.
  2. Marriage will be valid if it is registered in a public civil status act registration authority, so called “RACS” authorities. It is possible to get into a religious marriage in Ukraine, but it will be not recognised as official.
  3. Ukrainian family law contains some compulsorily restrictions and conditions for both spouses: marriage age (18 years old generally and 16 years old exceptionally based on court decision); mutual consent; monogamy; no connection by blood; marriage between a child and adoptive parent, natural child and adopted one, between adopted children. For example, natural child and adopted child or adopted children can get married based on the court decision. At the same time marriage between adopter and adopted child is prohibited. Such marriage may be possible only if adoption will be cancelled. 
  4. List of necessary documents for marriage registration includes the following:
  • passports of the spouses with a certified translation into Ukrainian for foreigner.
  • if foreigner has a residence permit, there also is an obligation to provide temporary or permanent residence in Ukraine.
  • if fiancé and/or bride had a marriage in the past it is necessary to provide a document which confirms the dissolution of the previous marriage. As it was mentioned above, all foreign documents must be provided with certified translation into Ukrainian.
  • finally, the lawfulness of the foreigner’s stay in Ukraine must be checked and completed by the local State Migration Service.
  1. It is worth noting that the foreign documents should not only be supported by their Ukrainian translation, but also contain either apostille or official legalisation mark, if the country where they have been issued is not a party to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, unless there is a legal assistance agreement between foreign country and Ukraine.
  2. The marriage usually can officially be registered in two steps within one month. Firstly, the future spouses file a joint marriage application to the civil acts registration authorities. Such application can be filed through representative or another spouse by granting a respective POA. Second and final step – attending authorities in person and completing the official registration of the marriage in one month since the day, when the joint marriage application has been filed. It is also possible to enter a marriage in Ukraine within 24 hours, given that all necessary documents together with translation are in place and State Migration Service has completed the procedure mentioned in point 4 above.
  3. Foreign marriages are valid in Ukraine in case its procedure and official registration does not contradict local family formalities, mentioned in the point 3 above. Generally, it is sufficient to have the foreign marriage certificate apostilled and translated into Ukrainian.
Thus, the registration of marriage is not complicated at all. Providing that the future spouses did their homework diligently and in time, the official marriage registration procedure in Ukraine is enjoyable and smooth process. Simultaneously, it is highly recommended to seriously consider the place of spouses’ permanent residence as it can have a lot of consequences for the family, including property and parental relations of spouses.
To conclude or not conclude, that is the question. Marriage contract & contract for civil partnership.
A marriage contract is one of the most popular legal instruments among the legal routine of spouses. Generally accepted that marriage contract is intended to regulate all property relations of spouses and in some countries even more spheres of their life. Ukraine is not an exception in this regard.
It is necessary to understand that a marriage contract is not a must prescribed by the law. Parties, whether they are both foreigners or locals, enjoy the right to decide whether they want to conclude or sign the respective document.
At the same time, it is important to understand that if there is no signed marriage contract, property issues between spouses will be regulated by the Family Code of Ukraine. That means that all their property is a subject to the regime of joint common property and owned by them in equal shares even if the assets are registered only in the name of one of the spouses. 
However, there is a list of exceptions to the mentioned rule. For example, equal ownership of spouses does not apply to inheritance, property acquired before the marriage, gifts, property acquired for personal money, prizes, bonuses, and things for personal use, amongst others.
Generally, a marriage contract minimises risks of long-term judicial proceedings between spouses and the loss of property as the result of the actions of another spouse.
In a legal sense, a marriage contract regulates only ownership relations between future spouses(when parties had already applied for marriage) or newlyweds (when parties had already married). For the record, a marriage contract can also include clauses regarding alimonies for children and one of the spouses. 
It is important that parties can recognise in marriage contract some assets as their joint common property, while other assets as privately owned by one of them. Another useful feature is that the parties can specifically regulate the issue of debts or loans taken during a marriage and decide on their liabilities in this regard. It is interesting that spouses may also specifically govern the ownership and management of their business and entrepreneurial activities by the marriage contract. In our practice we see a common trend now for the business partners of husband and/or wife to request from them a specialised marriage contract in order to minimise the risks in of property division between spouses.
Thus, we may summarise that the proper planning is also highly important issue for the family assets. It is very essential to choose the most appropriate applicable law for the property of the spouses. This is extremely significant, when the spouses have several places of residence and property located in different parts of the world. 
Mentioned situation requires advice of the legal expert in each involved country because, for example, it is internationally accepted and recognised that the relevant legislation for real estate is the law of the place, where such property is located. Thus, future spouses or newlyweds should analyse all their property (which they already have or plan to acquire) and countries, where it is located. In common, such analysis will determine the content of the marriage contract or even several contracts in different countries, if there is a need.
Finally, it is important to briefly outline local legislation in the sphere of civil partnership or so-called civil marriage. Ukrainian law prescribes that persons cohabitated during a certain amount of time in a civil partnership (as one family), have the same rights for the division of their property as spouses in a registered marriage. The only important difference is that such cohabitation as one family without registration of the marriage should be separately confirmed and proved in the court.
Ukrainian family legislation does not provide a special type of “marriage contract” for civil partnership, which makes the position of parties more complicated when there is no mutual agreement upon some property. At the same time, civil law guarantees freedom of contract based on which parties can conclude a contract, which will have similar clauses to a marriage contract, with the caveat of being in civil partnership instead of marriage.
Such legal instrument can minimise risks for financial interests of a couple and protect from the life-long judicial disputes.
Oleksandr Gubin started his career in AGA Partners law firm just after his graduation from university. Now he holds the position of senior associate, specialising in international family law, as well as in private projects. Oleksandr’s main spheres of expertise include relations between spouses, issues related to children, surrogacy, and property issues. Oleksandr is a Deputy Head of the Family Law Committee of the Ukrainian Bar Association.
Olena Sibirtseva specialises in representing clients’ interests in family and inheritance law since 2013. Olena has experience in consulting clients in sphere of national family law on matters concerning divorce issues, division on property of spouses, standing the fact of cohabiting without marriage, recognition of property as a private property of one of the spouses, etc. Also, Olena specialises in representing on matters concerning protection of rights and interests of children, in particular, determination of place of residence of child, establishing ways to participate in the upbringing of child, deprivation of parental rights, recovery of alimony payments. Olena is a Head of the Family, Civil and Inheritance Law Committee of the Ukrainian Bar Association.

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