Pepeliaev Group’s legal experts participated in a conference titled: ‘Property Matters in a Family: Legislation and Court Practice’.


On 28 and 29 September 2017 Julia Borozdna, Partner at Pepeliaev Group, and Olga Puchkova, Lead Expert of the Family and Inheritance Law Practice Group, participated in the international academic and practical conference ‘Property Matters in a Family: Legislation and Court Practice’. The Conference was held under the format of the parliamentary hearings in the Russian State Duma and the Russian Civic Chamber. It was organised by the State Duma Committee for Nation-Building and Legislation and the Alekseev Presidential Private Law Research Centre. The task set before the participants was to indicate gaps in the legal regulation of property relations between family members and to make suggestions for improving family legislation.

Olga Puchkova shared her impression of the conference:

The conference has become a really significant event worthy of experts’ attention: the last time a similar forum was held was in 2005 and since then family law practitioners and scholars haven’t had a chance to share opinions on such a scale and at such a distinguished venue.

It was a particular pleasure to hear reports and polemics from true family law legends who are also currently involved in drafting amendments to the current Russian Family Code: Maria Antokolskaya, professor of the University of Amsterdam, who has also authored a wonderful textbook on family law; Bronislav Gongalo, Chair of the Civil Law Department at the Urals State Law Academy, who is the author of a commentary on the Family Code, and Pavel Krasheninnikov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Nation-Building and Legislation, who has also authored a commentary on the Family Code.

Among the participants of the Conference were legal scholars, legal experts, notaries from many cities across Russia, teachers, postgraduate students, and professional judges including Alexander Klikushin, Head of the Panel of judges on family matters and child protection matters of the Judicial Division for Civil Cases of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Hugues Fulchiron, President of the International Society of Family Law, could not be present at the event and Olga Dyuzheva, a senior teacher of the civil Law Department of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and vice-President of the Society, read out a message on Prof. Fulchiron’s behalf conveying his good wishes.

Much has changed for Russia over the past 12 years: this requires a new approach to interpretation and the ways the law is applied. Our colleagues had a lot of important questions, sometimes concerning doctrines, both for the legislature and the judicial system. The inspiration behind and the moderator of the Conference, Lidia Mikheeva, Deputy Head of the Alekseev Presidential Research Centre of Private Law, found herself having to choose between hearing an interesting speech or discussion and the need to stick to the agenda.

During the two days of the conference the participants managed to discuss property matters as between spouses during marriage, during a divorce, and when one spouse is appointed to manage the affairs of the other when such other lacks capacity. Also spoken about were the rights of both spouses in a case of bankruptcy and the details of apportioning debts that have arisen during marriage. The participants also had heated debates about the possibility to make transactions between spouses and other family members as well as about the expanded interpretation of the regulations on declaring transactions between spouses invalid (for example, under article 167 (4) of the Russian Civil Code, as contrary to the fundamentals of public policy, or of morality). Of course, matters relating to obligations of family members to make child support payments were not ignored, starting with the possibility to establish a minimum amount of child support payments and ending with the issue of whether a payer should receive a notarially certified approval of her/his spouse to enter into a child support agreement for a child for a previous marriage. Great interest was roused by a topic put forward by a representative of the East Siberian State University which was worded: ‘Embryos as subjects of property relations’. The audience was stunned by the question, which straddles the borderline between ethics and law.

The topics mentioned above are only some of those brought up during the event. However, if asked to say what epitomised the Conference, we would cite the dispute between those experts who consider family law to be part of civil law and those specialists view it as constituting an independent branch of law. In the 1960s, battles between 'artists' and 'scientists' were in full swing regarding whether it is science or art that is of paramount importance for the society. In the same way now, the ‘civil’ and the ‘family’ lawyers are in opposition over the correlation of family and civil law in regulating family relationships. Most specialists, of course, justifiably talked about the unique status of family law in the state system and expressed the opinion that family law should not be incorporated into civil law: family law has emerged owing, first and foremost to the need to regulate non-property relationships based on love, mutual respect, help, and a sense of responsibility as stated in article 1 of the Russian Family Code. Alla Veselova, Head of the Legal Department of Sberbank of Russia. summarised the discussion and her words may serve as the motto of the conference: “God created man and woman. Husband and wife is one lifeblood, one nervous system. This is the key difference between the subject matters of family law and civil law – the latter deals with relationships in which the parties are strangers. And this is what makes the institution of family law so unique and special.”

Recently, interest in family law in Russia has been significantly growing. And it is absolutely fitting for this field to be developed and improved at the highest level. By uniting the efforts of experts, practising specialists, and scholars and taking note of other countries’ experience in this area of law, we can make the industry more efficient which is going to enhance legal knowledge and cultural intelligence of Russian people.

Pepeliaev Group would like to thank the organisers of the conference, and in particular to personally thank Lidia Mikheeva, Deputy Head of the Alekseev Presidential Research Centre of Private Law, for the opportunity granted to us to participate in this truly outstanding and practice-oriented event. 

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