Duma committee scraps bill equating longtime cohabitation to marriage

The Russian Lower House committee for family women and children has spoken against a proposal to equate cohabitation for five years or more to official marriage, saying it would contradict the state policy on family values.

The bill was drafted in January this year by senator Anton Belyakov from the central Russian Vladimir region. Belyakov claimed that Russian citizens presently see no difference between registered and unregistered unions, but from a legal standpoint cohabitation is not recognized as marriage. This can cause couples who prefer to live outside official wedlock problems in division of property in the case of separation or death of a partner.

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To solve this problem the bill introduces into legislation a form of union called “de-facto marriage” to cover cases where an unregistered couple, a man and woman, live together for at least five years and have joint budget. In cases where a couple has a common child or children the term of cohabitation is shortened to two years. However, parliamentary experts have opposed Belyakovs proposal.

First deputy chair of the committee for family women and children, MP Olga Okuneva, told Interfax that in her view the bill contradicted the main state concept of family policies. “Traditional values are being prioritized in this concept and marriage is understood as a union between a man and a woman based on the registration in state agencies,” she said.

Earlier, State Duma experts complained that the definitions and characteristics used in the bill were so vague that it was unclear who should decide on the moment when such relations start and how they will do it.

They also noted that couples should be encouraged to make their relationships official and that marriage is a voluntary step, which any couple could undertake if they wished to do so. A poll conducted by the state-run public opinion research center VTSIOM showed that 38 percent of Russians supported legislative moves to provide for equality of cohabitation and marriage, while 50 percent of respondents opposed the move.

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