Elise Buie Family Law | Blog: Italy Making It Easier for Couples to Divorce

Italy conjures up images of historic towns, wonderful food, and the setting for romantic movies and books, like Roman Holiday and Eat, Pray, Love. But romance doesn’t seem to be the reason why Italy has one of the lowest rates of divorce in all of the European Union. Instead, the reasons cited include high legal costs and the complexity of divorce cases, especially when both parties are not in agreement. Now, Italian lawmakers have changed the regulations to make divorce easier for couples wanting to separate.


In the classic Marcello Mastroianni film from 1961, Divorce Italian Style, a man unable to divorce his wife concocts a plan to do away with his wife in order to marry his cousin. Divorce continued to be illegal in Italy up until 1970. However, even after the laws were changed, opponents fought legalized divorce which eventually led to Italy’s first legislative referendum since Italy adopted its constitution. With a near 90% turnout, Italian voters opted to keep divorce legal by about 60% to 40%. Even with divorce legal, it wasn’t exactly easy to separate from a spouse. Until recently, couples had to be separated for 3 years before they can get divorced.


Some couples who could not wait the 3-year separation period took advantage of EU regulations to get divorced in other countries. This included setting up fake residencies in countries like Romania or Great Britain, to get a quick divorce, which is then recognized as legal in Italy due to EU regulations. Far from waiting three years, couples may take care of the process in an afternoon after flying to another country and signing some papers to apply for residency.


This time around, the divorce law was updated with much less fanfare. The liberalized divorce law changes were approved by Italian deputies 398 to 28. The Catholic Church remained opposed to the changes, but their influence over Italian marriages and divorces appear to be waning. The Catholic newspaper Avvenire called the changes “a devastating anti-family downward slide.” In 2012, Italy had the 5th lowest marriage rate. Young Italian couples are more frequently opting to live together and have children without the formalities of marriage.


Under the new divorce regulations, couples only have to wait out 12 months of separation in a contested divorce, or 6 months in the case of uncontested divorces. This comes after other recent changes allowing couples to divorce without having to go to court. Last November, the parliament approved divorce involving only the parties and their lawyers, leaving couples to negotiate the separation without having to go before a judge.


These changes are part of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s campaign to clean up some of Italy’s much despised bureaucracy and speed up the justice system. This may also lead to an increase in divorces among Italians who may have stayed together only because divorce is so complicated and expensive. One study listed Italy as having the lowest percentage of happily married couples among 11 countries, along with the lowest divorce rate of the survey. It is yet to be seen whether relaxed divorce regulations will lead to more couples breaking the knot.


STAY UP TO DATE

Subscribe to our newsletters

 
Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.

FURTHER READING

Latest Blog Posts

There are various ways to plan for the handling of your remains after death, as we discussed in Part I of “How to Handle Remains in Washington State.” What option you choose will likely turn on some combination of your…

Death is a part of life. Like taxes, there's no avoiding it. Also, like taxes, you may not like thinking or talking about the subject. However, if you think about death and how to handle your remains from a planning…

Every child deserves love, stability, and consistency. Is there a child in your life that you have considered adopting, perhaps because they are the child of your spouse or a child you are fostering? Perhaps there is an adult in…

The thought of losing your home or its contents in a disaster is a scary thought. Loss of life, destruction of irreplaceable items such as home movies, photos, and heirlooms make it unconscionable. But as we know in life, sometimes…

Spoiler alert: If you’re doing everything around the house (or at work) because you’re living (working) with a bunch of incompetent fools, or so they’ve led you to believe they are, you’re being manipulated. So pervasive is this phenomenon, there’s…

If you've created an estate plan, you've already spent a good deal of time thinking about what will happen to you if you become sick, incapacitated, or die, including where you will go (literally) when you die. After all, you don't want your…

If you're 18 or older and live in Washington State, you can legally change your name to anything you want as long as you're not doing so to commit fraud. For example, if your goal is to change your name to evade…

Your estate plan should ensure your special needs child experiences the best quality of life they can, that the assets upon which they will rely will last as long as possible during their lifetime, and that their eligibility for public services will be maximized. Learn more.

Popular culture is using the moniker "America's daughter" to describe Gabby Petito because she could've been any of our daughters. Learn how to talk to your daughter about the signs of domestic abuse.

When a couple decides to divorce, and one spouse is unable to support themselves, spousal support becomes a hot-button issue. Learn how to mitigate conflict and move forward.