Original Family Law of the RSFSR

Code of Laws concerning the Civil Registration of Deaths, Births and Marriages. October 17, 1918


The Family Code of 1918 codified principles first laid down in the Decree on Birth and Divorce laid down in December 1917. It gave women the right to freely divorce their husbands without consent (but with no division of property), to have an abortion without the consent of the father, and to conduct her personal life without the tutelage of church or family. This was at the time the most progressive family law in the world.

Original Source: Sbornik zakonov i dekretov raboche-krest’ianskogo pravitel’stva, Nos. 76-77 (1918), Art. 818.

I. Material Conditions Necessary for the Conclusion of Marriage
II. Invalidity of Marriage
III. Divorce
IV. Rights and Duties of Husband and Wife
V. Family Rights
VI. Personal Rights and Obligations of Children and Parents
VII. Rights of Property and Obligations of Children and Parents
VIII. Rights and Obligations of Persons related to One Another

Material Conditions Necessary for the Conclusion of Marriage

66. Persons intending to enter into marriage must have attained marital age. The marital age is fixed for females at 16 years and for males at 18 years.

67. Marriage cannot be entered into by any persons who are already in a state of marriage, whether registered or non-registered, where the latter has the validity of a registered marriage.(2)

69. Marriage cannot be entered into by relatives in the ascending or descending lines, or by consanguineous or half-consanguineous brothers and sisters.

Note.-Every relationship including affinity arising outside marriage is considered as an impediment to marriage between the relatives mentioned in the preceding article.

70. Marriage shall not be contracted unless the mutual consent of the parties to be married is obtained.

71. Difference of religion between persons intending to enter into marriage does not constitute an impediment.

72. The monastic state, priesthood or the diaconate are not impediments to marriage.

73. Marriage is not prohibited to persons who have taken a vow of celibacy even if such persons are members of the white (Catholic) or black regular clergy.

Invalidity of Marriage

74. Marriage can be considered void only in those cases foreseen by the law.

75. Legal proceedings to have a marriage declared void may be commenced by the husband or the wife, by persons whose interests are affected by the marriage, or by the representatives of the public authorities.

76. Suits relating to the annulment of marriage are decided by local courts pursuant to the regulations of the local jurisdiction.

77. A marriage is considered void if contracted by the parties, or by one of them, before the attainment of marital age, with the exception of cases:

(a) when the action for the annulment of marriage is begun after the attainment of marital age, or

(b) when, as a result of the marriage, the birth of children or the wife’s pregnancy shall have taken place.

78. Marriages are void if contracted by insane persons, or by persons in such a state as not to be able to act with discernment and to appreciate the significance of their acts.

79. Marriage is void if contracted at a time when one of the parties was already in the married state, the said state of marriage being still valid and not annulled by the death of the former spouse, or by divorce.


86. Marriage may be dissolved by divorce so long as both parties are living.

Note.-All regulations of the present law relating to divorce also cover valid ecclesiastical and religious marriages contracted up to December 20, 1917.

87. The mutual consent of husband and wife, as well as the desire of one of them to obtain a divorce, may be considered as a ground for divorce.

88. The petition for the dissolution of marriage may be submitted either verbally or in writing, with the official report drawn up thereon.

89. The petition for dissolution of marriage must be accompanied by the marriage certificate, or, if that be lacking, by the signature of the declarant to the effect that the parties are married, with a statement where the marriage took place; the party who gives such information is responsible for its accuracy.

90. The petition for dissolution of the marriage is presented to the competent local court according to the place of residence of both the married parties; or to any local court chosen by both the parties to be divorced; but if the petition for divorce made by one only of the married parties, it must be presented according to the place of residence of the husband, whether he plaintiff or defendant.

Note.-If the address of one of the parties to be summoned not known, and the petition for dissolution of the marriage is presented by the plaintiff according to his place of residence, the defendant is to be summoned in the form prescribed for cases where the defendant’s place of residence is not known.

91. Subject to the mutual consent of the married parties, petitions for divorce may be presented to the local court as well as to the Registrar’s Office (3) at which the marriage was registered.

92. Upon verification that the petition for divorce actually issues from both parties, the Registrar must make an entry of the divorce and at the request of the former married parties deliver to them a certificate of divorce.

93. Divorce suits are heard by the local judge sitting in public and at his own discretion.

98. The decision of the local court on the dissolution of marriage is subject to appeal in the ordinary course to the Court of Appeal, and is not considered to have legal effect until the expiration of the time during which recourse may be had to the Court of Appeal, unless the parties shall have declared that they have no intention of having recourse to the Court of Appeal.

Rights and Duties of Husband and Wife

100. Married persons use a common surname (the matrimonial surname). On the registration of marriage they may choose whether they will adopt the husband’s (bridegroom’s) or wife’s (bride’s) surname or their joint surnames.

101. Married persons retain their matrimonial surname during marriage and also after the dissolution of the marriage by death or by declaration of the court that one of the parties is to be presumed dead.

102. When a marriage is dissolved by divorce, the petition for divorce must state by what surname the married parties wish to be known thenceforth. In default of agreement between them on this question, the divorced husband and wife shall be known by the surname by which each of them was respectively known before their marriage.

103. If the parties entering upon marriage are of different nationalities, and one of them is a Russian citizen, change of citizenship, if explicitly desired by the bridegroom or the bride, may be effected in accordance with the general rules.

104. Change of residence on the part of one of the married parties does not oblige the other to follow.

105. Marriage does not establish community of property.

106. Married parties may enter into any property relation permitted by law. Agreements by husband or wife intended to restrict the property rights of either party are invalid, and not binding either upon third parties or upon the married parties themselves, who may at any time refuse to carry them out.

107. A party in need (i.e., who does not possess the minimum necessary for subsistence) and unable to work is entitled to support from the other party, provided that the latter is able to afford such support.

108. Should either of the married parties refuse to support the other if in need and unable to work, he or she is entitled to apply to the Department of Social Security of the local Soviet, according to the defendant’s place of residence, with the request that the other party shall afford such support. . . .

129. If the property of the deceased [party to a marriage] does not exceed 10,000 rubles in value and consists of house, furniture or working tools, it is left to the disposal of the surviving party, who has equal rights with other relatives entitled to inherit.

Note. If a dispute should arise between the spouse and the relatives of the deceased as to the management of inherited property as mentioned in the preceding article, the matter is decided by the local court.

130. The right of a spouse in need and unable to work to be maintained by the other spouse is preserved even in the case of divorce until a change of the condition which entitles to maintenance has taken place (art. 107).

131. If full accord upon the question of maintenance is secured between the parties to be divorced, the judge establishes the amount and form of maintenance to be paid by one spouse to the other at the time of the dissolution of the marriage.

132. In case of disagreement between the parties, the question of maintenance, its amount and form is decided in the general order of suits in the local court independently of the amount of the suit. Until the final settlement of the dispute by the court, maintenance to the spouse in need and unable to work must be paid temporarily to the amount and in the form determined by the judge who has decreed the dissolution of the marriage.

Family Rights

133. Actual descent is regarded as the basis of the family, without any difference between relationships established by legal or religious marriage or outside marriage.

Note.-I. Children descended from parents related by non-registered marriage have equal rights with those descended from parents whose marriage was registered.

Note.-II. The provisions of the present article extend also to children born outside wedlock before the introduction of Civil Marriage (Dec. 20, 1917).

134. The persons registered as the parents in the register of births are considered as the father and mother of a child.

135. If there is no such entry regarding the parents of a child, or it is incorrect or incomplete, the interested parties are entitled to prove their paternity or maternity respectively by legal process.

Note.-The local People’s Court is competent to decide suits concerning descent.

136. The interested parties, including the mother, are entitled to prove the true descent of a child even if the parties registered as parents at the time of the child’s conception or birth are married by registered contract or by a contract having the validity of a registered one.

140. An unmarried woman who becomes pregnant shall give notice not later than three months before the birth of the child to the local Registrar’s Office according to her place of residence, stating the time of conception, the name and the residence of the father.

Note.-A similar notice may be given by a married woman if the conceived child does not descend from her legal husband.

141. On the receipt of such a notice the Registrar’s Office shall inform the person designated as father in the notice. Such person is entitled within two weeks from the day of receipt of the information to appeal to the court against the statement made by the mother, on the ground that it is incorrect. If no appeal is made within the specified term, the person is to be considered as the father of the child.

142. Suits relating to evidence of paternity are determined in the ordinary course; but the parties are bound to give true testimony, otherwise they will be held guilty of perjury.

143. Should it be established that the person designated according to article IV has had such intercourse with the child’s mother as to become, according to the natural course of events, the father of the child, the court must decide to recognize him as the father and at the same time compel him to share in the expenses connected with the gestation, delivery and maintenance of the child.

Personal Rights and Obligations of Children and Parents

145. Children descended from parents related by registered marriage adopt the matrimonial surname of their parents. Children of parents related by non-registered marriage may be known either by the father’s or mother’s or by their joint surname. The surname of such children is determined by agreement between the parents, or failing such, by decision of the court.

146. In the case of dissolution of marriage by divorce or its invalidation, it depends upon agreement between the parents to determine which of the three surnames mentioned in article 145 the children shall adopt. In case of disagreement between the parents, the surname of the children is to be decided according to the judge’s discretion, and in case of dispute between the parties, by the local court.

147. If the parents are of differing nationalities (if one of them is a Russian citizen) the children’s nationality is determined by previous agreement between the parents as stated by them at the time of celebration of marriage at the Registrar’s Office.

Note.-If the parents fail to agree on this question, the children are considered as Russian citizens, but upon attaining full age they have the right to declare their wish to follow the nationality of the other parent.

148. It is left to the parents to decide the religion of their children under 14 years of age. In default of agreement between the parents the children will be considered to adhere to no religion until they attain 14 years of age.

Note.-The agreement between the parents as mentioned in the present article relative to their children’s religion must be concluded in writing.

149. Parents may exercise paternal rights over a male child until he attains 18 years of age and over a female child until 16 years of age.

150. Paternal rights are exercised by the parents conjointly.

151. All measures concerning the children are taken by the parents by mutual agreement.

152. In case of disagreement between the parents, the question in dispute is decided by the local court with the participation of the parents.

153. Parental rights are exercised exclusively for the benefit of the children. In case of abuse the court is entitled to deprive the parents of their rights.

Note.-Suits for depriving parents of their paternal rights are subject to the jurisdiction of the local court, and may be begun by representatives of the authorities as well as by private persons.

154. Parents are bound to take care of the development of their children under age, of their education and their training for a useful activity.

155. The protection of the personal interests of the children, as well as of their property, is the duty of the parents, who are the children’s representatives in and outside court (unless there be a special appointment of guardians and trustees).

156. Parents are bound to keep their children with them, and have the right to demand their restoration from every person who retains the children without permission of the law or the court.

157. Parents are entitled to decide the manner of the upbringing and instruction of the children, but have no right to enter into any contract concerning the employment of their children from 16 to 18 years of age without their children’s consent.

158. If the parents live apart, it is for them to decide by agreement with which of them their children under age shall reside. In default of agreement between the parents the question is determined in the general course of suits by the local court.

159. In cases where the parents are deprived of their paternal rights by the court, the latter is obliged to allow the parents interviews with their children, unless it be recognized that such interviews have an evil and prejudicial influence upon the children.

Rights of Property and Obligations of Children and Parents

160. Children have no rights to the property of their parents, or parents to that of their children.

161. Parents are obliged to provide board and maintenance for their minor children, if these are in need and unable to work.

Note.-The parental obligations here stated are suspended in the event of the children being maintained by public or governmental care.

162. The duty of maintaining the children devolves equally upon both parents, while the amount of the maintenance paid by them is defined in accordance with their means; but the sum expended by either parent must not be less than half of the subsistence minimum established for a child in a given locality. A parent who is unable to pay the whole of his share pays only a part of it.

163. Children are obliged to provide maintenance for their parents who are in a needy condition and unable to work, unless the latter receive maintenance from the government in accordance with the law of insurance against illness and old age, or from measures of social security.

164. Should the parents refuse to provide maintenance for their children, or should the children be unwilling to maintain their parents in the cases mentioned in articles 161-3, the persons entitled to maintenance reserve the right to claim same in accordance with the rules prescribed in articles 108-18.

165. The right of children to obtain maintenance from their parents and the right of parents to obtain maintenance from their children in the cases mentioned in articles 161-3 is reserved even in case of the dissolution of the marriage of the parents either by the death of one of them or by divorce, as well as by invalidation of the marriage.

166. On the dissolution of marriage by divorce and subject to mutual agreement between the parents on the questions connected with the maintenance and upbringing of the children, the judge at the time of granting the decree of divorce shall take a decision on these questions. If the agreement as to the maintenance and education of the children entered into by the parents should not be to the benefit of the children, the latter reserve the right to claim from each of the parents the subsistence determined by law.

Rights and Obligations of Persons related to One Another

172. Indigent persons (i.e., persons not possessing the subsistence minimum) and relatives who are unable to work, of the direct descending or ascending lines, consanguineous or half-consanguineous brothers or sisters, are entitled to obtain maintenance from their wealthy relatives.

Note.-No difference is to be made between relationships established inside and outside marriage.

173. Relatives of the direct ascending or descending lines as well as brothers and sisters, in the order of the established progression, are obliged to provide maintenance only in those cases where the indigent persons are not in a position to obtain maintenance from spouse, children or parents respectively because of their absence or their incapacity to provide maintenance.

174. Should relatives refuse support to their relatives who are in need and unable to work, the latter are entitled to claim maintenance in accordance with the rules set forth in articles 108-18 above.

175. Persons conjointly bound to provide maintenance are responsible therefore in equal proportions unless the court, on account of differences in their means, of the absence of one of them, or for some other important reason, has found it necessary to regulate in some other way their shares in the fulfillment of this obligation.

176. In case of impossibility immediately to obtain maintenance from the persons obliged to provide it, the court is entitled to impose this duty upon the more remote party under obligation, reserving to the latter the right to recover his expenses from the party who is immediately obliged to provide maintenance.

177. Agreements containing refusal of the right of maintenance are void.

Source: International Conciliation (1919), pp. 35-37.

Comments are closed.