Excerpts from the Bolshevik Family Law (1918)

Passed in October 1918, the Bolshevik Family Law clarified and expanded earlier reforms to the legal status of marriage, divorce and parenthood:

“…Conditions Necessary for Marriage

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

67. Marriage cannot be entered into by any persons who are already in a state of marriage, registered or non-registered…

69. Marriage cannot be entered into by relatives in the ascending or descending lines, or by consanguineous [blood-related] brothers and sisters…

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…

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…


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…

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…

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.

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…

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.

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. Children descended from parents related by non-registered [de facto] marriage have equal rights with those descended from parents whose marriage was registered…

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

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

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…

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.

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…

Rights and Obligations of Children and Parents

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

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.”