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in law, an individual who has been joined to another in marriage; the husband or the wife. According to Soviet law, the rights and obligations of spouses arise under a marriage recorded by the registry offices for documents of civil status (ZAGS). The same rights and obligations are entailed in marriages effected before the formation or reestablishment of the Soviet ZAGS, as well as in those determined by a court to be de facto marriages if entered into before adoption of the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of July 8, 1944, which made marriage registration mandatory. According to the Constitution of the USSR, spouses have equal rights in their family relations. Both spouses have free choice of occupation, profession, and place of residence. Decisions on their children’s education and on other questions of family life are made by them jointly.
Husband and wife have equal rights in the ownership, use, and disposal of any property acquired during the marriage, regardless of each one’s share in its acquisition through individual labor or material contribution. Under such joint ownership, each spouse is entitled to an equal share in the case of division of property. However, a court may deviate from the principle of equal shares when taking into account the interests of minor children or when either spouse’s interests deserve special consideration. Any assets belonging to either spouse before marriage, as well as any gift or inheritance acquired during the marriage, is the property of the respective spouse.
Spouses are required to give each other material support. If this obligation is not voluntarily fulfilled, a spouse who is unfit for work and requires material assistance may be granted maintenance payments from the other spouse by court order. The same provision applies to a wife during pregnancy and for one year after-the birth of the child. This right is retained even after dissolution of a marriage.
The constitutions of most bourgeois states proclaim the equality of husband and wife, but in fact marriage and family laws strengthen the supremacy of the husband in terms of both personal and property rights. In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, the husband controls the couple’s joint property independently of the wife’s consent. Under Italy’s civil code, the husband is the head of the family, and the wife must follow him wherever he finds it necessary to settle. In most of the United States the husband has the right to demand a divorce if the wife refuses to live in the place he has chosen. According to the legislation of Italy and France, parental control belongs to both spouses; while the marriage is in effect, however, parental authority is wielded by the father as head of the family.