Ukraine: Practicing Family Law in Times of Uncertainty
Posted: 16 May 2023 by Aminat Sulyemanova
I know that my every fellow colleague from IAFL stands with Ukraine in the current senseless and horrible war and I am thankful to all of you for the much-needed support and help.
Despite the ongoing hostilities and constant missiles attacks our country and its people continue or try to continue their regular living. The same goes for the family law practitioners in Ukraine.
You may remember my speech in February 2023 in Venice. Below, as my first contribution to this blog I would like to give you an update on how we practice law in the times of uncertainty.
All state bodies work as usual, performing their functions, and providing necessary services.
The number of services that can be obtained online using special electronic services or mobile applications is constantly increasing.
For example, one can register a child’s birth, register for the governmental financial support in this regard or receive some governmental assistance as the temporarily displaced person and use many other state services accessible online at https://diia.gov.ua/.
Ukrainian courts currently function in the same manner as prior the war. Right after the war has broken out, the courts were paralyzed, but to tell you the truth we all were shocked during the first couple of weeks since the invasion. However, starting from the summer 2022 the court system has started to resume its usual functioning and now everything proceeds rather smoothly.
Courts keep their usual deadlines, although there are occasional delays mainly due to the air strikes as hopefully the electricity cuts and issues with power supply remained in the past.
The electronic court system in Ukraine does exist and still is yet to be fully launched. In most cases, all documents must be submitted in paper form and copies of documents must be obtained physically at the court.
Nevertheless, there is a significant progress in the e-communication with the courts as now we can fully use e-mails for the filing various procedural documents (certified by the e-signature) to the court and have no fear that they will not be accepted by the court clerks or there will be some issues with their acceptance by the judge.
At the moment the consideration of the case via videoconference is not just a possibility, like it was before, but an intensively developing trend, which I hope would only be subject to the further enhancement in Ukraine.
Of course, not all courts enjoy availability of appropriate equipment and facilities or have plenty of rooms suitable for this, however, a lot of them can conduct a court hearing by videoconference and have at least one room with the necessary technical facilities.
Civil registry offices
The past year despite the ongoing war hostilities still showed a significant increase in the number of registered marriages. During the entire period of martial law, the civil acts registry bodies did not stop their work, working under extra-territorial principle, meaning that currently every person can apply for the service to any regional department of the civil registry offices in Ukraine without taking into consideration of his or her registered place of residence in the country.
The grounds and procedure for divorce during martial law remain unchanged.
Spouses who do not have children can dissolve their marriage out of court through civil status registration authorities. If the spouses have minor children (under 18 years), the dissolution of the marriage takes place only through the court proceedings.
Overall, there are two ways to deal with this matter:
• Joint (uncontested) divorce petition upon application which is signed by both spouses and is accompanied by the agreement on alimony and custody certified by the notary public;
• Contested divorce petition, where there will be two parties – applicant and respondent.
The first option usually takes around three months to receive a final court decision.
The second option is not straightforward in terms of the time necessary to obtain a respective decision as there is no joint application and the procedure different.
It usually takes around 3 to 6 months to complete the divorce at the first instance in the contested marriage dissolution proceedings. If the court is required serve the documents abroad under Hague Convention 1965, the procedure will be longer, plus additional 3-6 months.
Appeal and cassation procedure (that are available to each party as of right) might take additional 3-6 months each.
Under Ukrainian procedural rules the jurisdiction of the court is established based on the registered address of residence of the respondent in Ukraine or location of real estate owned by him or her.
It should be mentioned that it is possible to get divorce in Ukraine without financial and children issues settlement.
We as practicing lawyers, unfortunately, note an increased number of inquiries regarding the dissolution of marriages.
A consent of the second parent is currently not required for a child to travel abroad accompanied by one parent. In case a child is accompanied by grandparents or other people, a written consent of one of the parents is required, certified by the custody and care authority.
If one of the parent objects to the child's departure abroad, it is possible to limit the departure by obtaining copy of the court decision on the temporary restriction of the child's travel abroad as a claim security measure.
During the period of martial law, only a clearly defined list of men is allowed to travel abroad, in case the relevant supporting documents are presented to the state border services.
For example, such categories, among others, include:
• men who have three or more children under the age of 18 (including those from different marriages).
• men who singly raises a child (children) under the age of 18.
Mentioned categories along with other ones provided by the law are also exempt from the conscription and they can be mobilized only at their own will.
Against this background, the number of families who want to have three or more children is growing in Ukraine.
IAFL Fellow, Ukraine