Divorce in Italy

Divorce in Italy

Updated on Tuesday 02nd June 2020

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The Italian family law is regulated by the Civil Code, which prescribes the legal framework for family related matters, such as marriage, divorce, divorce proceedings, regulations concerning the rights of children, including during and after the separation of the parents (child support and child maintenance).  
Separation proceedings in Italy fall under Articles 150 - 158 of the Civil Law. The notion of ‘divorce’ was introduced in the Italian legislation in 1970, when the Law 898/1970 was issued. In the case of foreign citizens married in Italy who want to start the divorce proceedings, the EU Regulations 1259/2010 will apply. 
As we presented earlier, marriage in Italy can be ended through two main options, represented by separation and divorce. Until recently, separation was the simplest way of exiting a marriage in Italy. In May 2015, the Government passed a new law through which Italian divorce proceedings are significantly reduced. Our team of Italian lawyers can provide legal representation to local and foreign persons who want to start the divorce procedure here. 


Separation in Italy


Legal separation in Italy is different from divorce because it only releases the spouses from the obligation of cohabitation. According to the Italian Family Law, legal separation is temporary, thus allowing spouses to reconcile anytime. There are two types of separations at the moment in Italy: separation by mutual consent and judicial separation.
In the case of separation by mutual consent, both parties are required to file a joint petition with an Italian court, asking for separation. In the case of judicial separation, one of the spouses files a complaint with an Italian court asking for the dissolution of the marriage. Before declaring the annulment of the marriage, the spouses must appear before the court for a mandatory reconciliation meeting in both types of separation. For assistance in litigation matters, you can address to our law firm in Italy.


What happens after legal separation in Italy? 

As we have presented up until now, those who want to end a marriage in Italy will first have to go through legal separation, which does not represent a divorce in itself, but it does represent a way for the spouses to be apart. Once the decision for legal separation is established (by mutual consent or by a court order), there are a set of consequences, which can be explained in detail by our team of Italian lawyers. Some of the most common effects of the legal separation are the following: 
  • the spouses no longer have the obligation of living in the same place;
  • in the case in which the wife has taken the husband’s family name, he will have the right to forbid her to use the respective name, but this is applicable only in specific situations;
  • in the case in which the couple has children, the parent who will no longer live in the same place where the child is, will be legally required to pay child support;
  • the amount of child support is established by the Italian court handling the case;
  • if after the separation, the spouse who was not responsible for the separation does not dispose of sufficient financial means, the other spouse is legally required to pay maintenance;
  • if there is a decision regarding the payment of child support and maintenance for a spouse, and the other spouse refuses to pay accordingly, this situation will be considered a criminal offence;
  • the spouse refusing to pay the respective amounts of money can be charged under the Section 570 of the Italian Criminal Code


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The new Divorce Law in Italy


In Italy, divorce proceedings are divided between the following: the joint divorce in which both spouses agree on the terms of the dissolution, and the contested divorce in which the parties have not reached a mutual agreement. Regardless of the current situation of couples wanting to divorce in Italy, our team of Italian lawyers can assist with in-depth advice on the applicable legislation and on the procedures to end a marriage here. 
The new Italian divorce legislation, dubbed “The Fast-Track Divorce Law”, allows for a shorter timeframe between the lodging of the divorce petition and the declaration of annulment by the Italian Court. The new law establishes that consensual divorces will take six months, while contested divorces will be reduced to 12 months from the current procedure which can take up to three years.


What is the divorce procedure in Italy? 

Provided that the legal separation did not lead to the reconciliation of the parties, the next stage the spouses have to go through is the divorce itself. One or both of the spouses can apply for a divorce in a period of six or twelve months since the legal separation was established. The procedure starts by filing a petition with the local court, which requests the dissolution of the marriage
As a general rule, the petition can be filed at the court which has jurisdiction over the region where the spouse resides. In the case of persons residing in other countries, they are allowed to file their petition at any competent court in Italy. However, foreigners who are married with Italian citizens can also request to start the divorce procedure following the legislation available in their country of residence. 
It is necessary to know that during a divorce procedure in Italy, the local judges will have the right to decide on matters such as the custody of the children (if the spouses have minor children), maintenance of the spouse who does not have sufficient financial funds, as well as the assignment of the property, in the case in which the spouses have minor children. 
The Italian legislation protects the parent who has received the custody of the children and, in relation to this, the respective spouse can receive the marital property regardless if he or she owns it or not. However, this regulation is applicable only if at the moment when the divorce takes place, the children are minors. Our law firm in Italy can provide more information on the legislation regulating the division of assets in the case of a divorce

What are the legal grounds for filing for divorce in Italy? 

The legal grounds which stipulates the manner in which Italian couples can file for divorce are stipulated by the following sources of law: the Law no. 898 of 1 December 1970, which was amended by the Law no. 436 of 1 August 1978, the Law no. 74 of 6 March 1987 and the Law no. 55 of 6 of May 2015, the most recently introduced law regarding the simplified divorce proceedings in Italy; our team of Italian lawyers can offer in-depth information on newest divorce regulations
The basic reasons that are prescribed by the civil legislation in Italy with regards to the right of filing for divorce refer to the following: legal separation, the annulment of the marriage, a new marriage of one of the spouses concluded in a foreign country, the non-consummation of the marriage and the change of sex of one of the spouses. 
When we refer to the legal separation, the parties can file for divorce if the legal separation was obtained by mutual consent or by the application made by one of the spouses, in the following conditions: after twelve months since the couple filed for legal separation in front of the local courts or in a period of six months, in the case in which the legal separation was obtained through mutual consent. 
It must be noted that divorce in Italy can also be obtained due to legal matters that are prescribed by the Criminal Law. For instance, one of the spouses can file for divorce if the other spouse is convicted for a serious crime that took place after the wedding. If a spouse was accused and sentenced for a serious crime, the other spouse can file for divorce if the sentence is longer than 15 years or if the spouse was sentenced to life imprisonment. 

What are the legal effects of divorce in Italy? 

Regardless of the reason for which the married couple filed for divorce (or if one of the spouses filed for divorce), there are several legal effects that will take place, and they are divided in four main categories, as follows: legal effects with regards to the relations between the two former spouses, the division of the marital property, the custody of the minor children of the couple and the obligation to pay child alimony
Depending on the particularities of a case, our team of lawyers in Italy can assist with in-depth legal advice on the rights and obligations the couple will have after the divorce; our lawyers can also provide legal representation in front of the Italian courts. With regards to the relation between the spouses after the divorce, it must be noted that the woman has the right to return to her maiden family name that she had prior to the marriage, if, once married, she took the name of the husband (a common practice in Italy). 
However, she may keep it if she wants to do so, regardless of the reason. In the case in which the marriage is comprised by an Italian citizen and a foreign citizen who has acquired the Italian citizenship during the marriage, it must be noted that the latter will not lose his or her Italian citizenship after the dissolution of the marriage
Another effect of a divorce in Italy is that the joint estate of the couple will be dissolved and divided between the parties as stipulated by the law. In the case in which the couple has minor children, the parent who will live with the child will most likely receive the right of living in the matrimonial home; more information on the rights of the minor children after the dissolution of the parents' marriage can be presented by our law firm in Italy and we invite you to request advice on any matter regulating the child’s rights. 

How many divorces are registered in Italy? 

The rate of divorces in Italy was influenced in the last decade due to the legal procedures that a couple had to follow. As a general rule, Italy has a low divorce rate compared to other developed countries, such as Germany, France or the United Kingdom, but its rate increased after the implementation of the law which eased the divorce procedures. With regards to the divorce statistics in Italy, we present the following: 
  • according to the National Institute of Statistics, in 2011, the country accounted for 53,806 divorces and 88,797 separations;
  • in 2015, the number of divorces increased at 82,496, after the Fast-Track Divorce Law was implemented (as presented by the same institution);
  • compared to 2014, this accounted for a rise in the number of divorces of 57%;
  • in 2016, Italy registered 1.6 divorces per each 1,000 inhabitants;
  • this rate is lower compared to other similar countries – in Great Britain there were 1.7 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants in 2016, and 1.9 divorces in France; 
  • the top reasons Italian couples divorce are related to betrayal or infidelity (21.5% of the divorces), the lack of feeling in love with the spouse (17.5%), violent or aggressive attitudes (13%), not getting along (13%) and physical distance (8.5%). 

Are there any divorce rules for Italian civil partnerships? 

Yes, the Italian legislation provides a legal framework for the dissolution of civil partnerships, which are recognized in this country under the Legislative Decrees No. 5 and No. 7 of 19th of January 2017. Under the new law, the Italian legislation also recognizes civil partnerships concluded between same-sex persons. 
In the case in which the civil partnership is concluded between an Italian citizen and a foreign citizen, the Italian authorities have the right to dissolve the respective partnership; the same applies if the civil partnership was concluded in Italy.  
The dissolution of a civil partnership in Italy can be done following the regulations available for divorce, as prescribed under the Regulation (EU) 1259/2010. Our team of lawyers in Italy can offer more information on the procedures that can be applied in the case of those wanting to end a civil partnership in this country. 
Those who want to find out more details on the procedures to end a marriage in Italy can contact our Italian law firm. Our lawyers are prepared to handle a wide range of cases regulated under the Civil Code and can represents Italians, as well as foreigners seeking for legal advice.