In line with family laws across the globe, the revised Ethiopian Family Law outlines the rights and responsibilities of partners once they enter the institution of marriage. In the discussion that follows, we will discuss the fundamental impacts of marriage. Accordingly, the following can be considered as the basic effects of marriage that happen when people tie the knot.

  1. Personal Effects of Marriage
  2. Pecuniary Effects of Marriage


Various Forms of Marriage Are Equal

No matter how you tie the knot – be it in a courthouse or a religious ceremony – the legal consequences remain the same.

Consummation Doesn’t Change a Thing

Whether the marriage is physically consummated or not, the legal impact remains unchanged.

Contracting Marriage

Spouses can, before or on their wedding day, decide on the financial aspects of their union through a contract. They can also outline their rights and responsibilities in personal matters, as long as it doesn’t go against the law.

Incapacity of Spouses

If a person is legally incapable, their marriage contract won’t be valid unless they themselves enter into it and the court approves.

Formalities Matter

A marriage contract is only valid if it’s in writing and witnessed by four individuals – two for each spouse.

Freedom with Limits

Spouses can’t burden third parties with obligations through their marriage contract. Also, if the contract only refers to local customs, religion, or foreign law, it won’t hold.

Modifying Marriage Contracts

In the interest of the family, spouses can agree to modify their marriage contract. The court can approve these changes if it deems them beneficial to the family’s well-being.

Legal Regime in the Absence of a Contract

When there’s no marriage contract or it’s not valid, the law steps in with its provisions.


Respect, Support, and Assistance

Marriage comes with a built-in commitment – spouses owe each other respect, support, and assistance.

Equal Rights in Family Management

Both spouses have equal rights in managing the family. Cooperation is key to safeguarding the family’s interests and raising responsible citizens.

Handling Incapacity

If one spouse is unable to give consent due to disability, absence, or other reasons, the other spouse takes charge – unless the marriage contract says otherwise.

Children from Previous Marriages

Each spouse retains exclusive decision-making rights for the children they had before the marriage. No agreement can change this.

Cohabitation Essentials

Spouses are obligated to live together and maintain normal marital relations unless health is at risk. No contract can alter this.

Deciding on Residence

Joint decisions determine the common residence, emphasizing shared responsibility.

Agreeing to Live Separately

Spouses can agree to live separately for a specific or indefinite period, with the option to revoke the agreement.

Fidelity Duties

Fidelity is a mutual obligation between spouses.


Personal Property Ownership

Property owned before or acquired after marriage through inheritance or donation remains personal.

Property Acquired Post-Marriage

If one spouse acquires property after marriage using personal assets, it remains personal if approved by the court.

Managing Personal Property

Each spouse manages their personal property and has the freedom to dispose of it unless the marriage contract says otherwise.

Administering Common Property

Common property is jointly administered, unless an agreement designates one spouse for the task. If one spouse can’t manage, the other takes over.

Giving Notice in Property Management

Spouses must inform each other when managing common property.

Agreements for Significant Decisions

Agreement from both spouses is necessary for significant property transactions, ensuring mutual consent.

Revoking Obligations

If one spouse violates property transaction rules, the court can, at the request of the other spouse, revoke such obligations within a specified timeframe.

Dealing with Debts

Personal debts are recovered from personal property. Household debts are considered joint and several, recoverable from common and personal property.

Household-Related Debts

Debts incurred for the livelihood of the family, maintenance obligations, and other acknowledged debts fall under household-related debts.

Contributing to Household Expenses

Spouses contribute to household expenses based on their respective means, promoting fairness.

Approval for Spousal Contracts

Contracts between spouses during marriage need court approval to be effective.

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