Alimony/Spousal Support under the Ethiopian Legal System
In most of the civilized legal systems around the world, if one spouse earns more money than the other spouse, he or she is required to pay spousal support. This is usually a payment independent from child support, with the amount being set by the court based on the spouses’ assets, incomes, ages, health, standard of living, ability to be self sufficient, contribution to each others’ career, length of marriage and more.
The revised family code recognizes the need for spouses to support each other during the life time of the marriage. (The Revised Family code arts. 49(1), 210 (a)). However, it seems to shift from this position once the marriage is dissolved, in exception to the support owed to the children concerned, all contact should be severed between the spouses. Either for this or other reasons (non consideration included) the topic alimony is neither referred to nor provided for in the code, barring its existence in rulings concerning the dissolution of marriage.
However, certain obligations entered by the spouses during the marriage, through the length and extensive sacrifice they involve, live spouse basically unrewarded through the mere equivalent division of common property, defeating the law’s desire to make such transition as comfortably as possible. Majority of the female spouses in Ethiopia, who put their careers aside either to provide for the family while the other spouse goes through more schooling, or to raise the children, thereby avoiding expenses like a maid or a babysitter until the financial strength of the family is established, incur a strong disadvantage due to such deficiency in the law when it is absolutely fair that such spouse be of an equal recipient of all benefits that may arise. The damage could be further deepened if the other spouse alienates such property to his or her prejudice or even, having been appointed sole administrator, loses such property under a certain type of investment. (The Revised Family code Article 68, 69, 60)
Such complete loss or the reception of such an unfair some for duty carried out under love should be unacceptable. But the law, it seems, has left them with no recourse against such problem and left them vulnerable to attack against their livelihood.
Another instance whereby alimony becomes necessary is in the case of infirmity, either of a child they have or one of the spouses themselves. Children with special needs require full time and attention which, being incompatible with a full time job and self support leaves one of the parents unemployed and in the beck and call of such child. Because such spouses would, most undoubtedly fully rely on his or her partner to fulfill their needs and that of child, divorce should not change this arrangement. Considering spouses that have, in the course (or end) of the marriage become victims of infirmity due to physical or mental illnesses, who may not have ascendants capable of supporting them (it would seem unlikely) or children who may not have attained majority/financial independence would be advantaged if the law advocated their receiving such necessary allowance.
As a conclusion, it must be noted that decisions undertaken with issues of family law may not always be fair nor is it easy to assume the financial compensation due to relationship that usually persists on the repeated sacrifices of its members. While it seems logical that divorce be done with the object of ensuring the independence of the spouses from then on, it seems apparent the concept of marriage is largely a process of give and take and the law should recognize this being a permanent situation even if legal ties have been severed.
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