The rights and obligations of the spouses in marriage

The maintenance obligations of the spouses during marriage

During the marriage, each spouse shall participate in the common household of the family and the maintenance of the spouses to the best of his/her abilities. Where necessary, also during the marriage it can be confirmed that one of the spouses has to pay maintenance to the other. The amount of the maintenance and its manner of payment can be confirmed either by an agreement or a court decision.

...and after divorce

Upon granting a divorce, the Court may order a spouse to pay maintenance to the other spouse if this is deemed reasonable. The maintenance may be confirmed payable in periodic instalments or as a lump sum. The amount of maintenance and its method of payment can also be confirmed by agreement. The agreement shall be presented to the Municipal Board of Social Welfare for confirmation.

The duty of the parents to pay maintenance to their children and the confirmation of the maintenance is governed by Act on Child Maintenance.

Debts of the spouses and liability for the debt of a spouse

During marriage, a spouse is liable for a debt he or she has taken himself/herself. Nor will a spouse, after dissolution of marriage, become liable for a debt taken by the other spouse alone. However, if the spouses so wish, they can raise a common loan. The spouses are also jointly liable for a debt taken by one of the spouses alone for the maintenance of the family (e.g. in a case where the spouse has purchased food supplies or necessary furniture on credit).

Property of the spouses

Marriage does not result in changes in the ownership of property of the spouses. Property belonging to a spouse upon the conclusion of the marriage will remain his/her property also after the marriage. Likewise will property which a spouse acquires during the marriage or receives as inheritance or gift belong solely to him/her.

However, the spouses can also acquire property jointly, e.g. by jointly purchasing residential shares and paying the purchase price fifty-fifty from their own funds.

Marriage settlement

The spouses can, either before the conclusion of the marriage or during the marriage, execute a marriage settlement. In a marriage settlement the spouses can agree that when the marriage is dissolved, the property of the spouses is not divided equally, but each spouse keeps his or her property. The marriage settlement can also stipulate that a spouse has no matrimonial right to certain property belonging to the other spouse, such as for instance a farm obtained as inheritance.

The marriage settlement in concluded in writing. It is dated and signed. In addition, two non-disqualified persons must attest it. The marriage settlement enters into force when it has been registered by the local register office. The marriage settlement may be submitted for registration to any local register office.

The marriage settlement can be quite a complicated agreement. When considering a marriage settlement, it is appropriate to turn to an attorney, the State Legal Aid Office or another skilled lawyer.

Protection of the common home and household goods

The Marriage Act aims that the home and the movable property in it remain available to the family also when this property belongs solely to one spouse. Therefore the spouse owning the home or household goods may not, without the consent of the other spouse, sell or otherwise convey property intended solely on mainly to be used as the common home of the family nor the movable property belonging to this home. These restrictions on the sale or other conveyance of the home relate both to a real estate used as the home and to a residential flat. The consent is necessary also when for example a residential flat belongs in equal shares jointly to the spouses and one of the spouses intends to sell his/her share to a third party.