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Legal questions: Money and partnership

"Spouses, each according to his/her capabilities, together provide for the proper maintenance of their family."

"Spouses are to come to an agreement on the contribution that each of them will make, namely by monetary payments, managing the household, looking after their children or by assisting in the other spouse's occupation or business. In so doing, they address the needs oft the matrimony and their personal circumstances."
(Swiss Code of Civil Law (ZGB) art. 163 para. 1, 2 and 3). 
 

Obligation to support


The cited article from the Swiss Code of Civil Law (ZGB) states that both spouses bear financial responsibility for the family as a whole and not that each spouse bears responsibility for half. Who can contribute how much to family maintenance depends on individual possibilities, but also on the division of labour within the family (gainful employment and childcare). As a binding legal provision, the mutual obligation to support each other cannot be excluded, even with a contract. 
In addition to earned income, insurance income and pension income, returns on assets and, if necessary, the assets themselves serve to pay for family maintenance. Profits from children's property can be used to cover their maintenance. However, children's property can only be touched with authorisation from the guardianship authority.
If income is not sufficient to cover the cost of living, you can apply for social welfare from the community you live in. A budget is set up based on the Swiss Conference for Social Welfare (www.skos.ch) guidelines and financial support is paid if the calculated living requirements exceed income.
If the spouses live separately, the mutual obligation to support each other remains the same.
 

Allowance

Both spouses are entitled to an allowance. Income needs to be taken into account when determining this amount (ZGB art. 164, para. 1 & 2).
 

Obligation to provide information


To protect their interests, spouses are obliged to provide each other with information about income, wealth and debts, if necessary also in writing, e.g. through bank statements. This right can be demanded by law (ZGB art. 170 para. 1 & 2).
 

Liability for debts


A couple is jointly liable for debts if both individuals are listed as debtors and they have both signed an acknowledgement of indebtedness or if the money was used to pay for their joint upkeep. 
If one partner incurs debts to cover his/her own requirements, his/her partner is not liable, providing s/he is not listed as a debtor and has not signed an acknowledgement of indebtedness.
Both spouses are jointly liable for rental, health insurance and tax debts as long as they are not living separately and they are not divorced.
If you have any questions, please contact a debt counselling agency. You will find the address of your local debt counselling agency on the Web at www.schulden.ch.