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

Venice, Italy

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

Establishing paternity and parentage is important for many families and parents. Regardless of why you want to establish paternity and parentage, the process has the potential to be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terms and rules for…

After divorce, you may find yourself living on one less stream of income than you did when you were married and want to find a way to make up for it. Or even if you didn’t lose any income by…

If you are in the process of getting remarried, a prenuptial agreement may be the last thing on your mind. It should be at the forefront of it, however, as it can be beneficial for you, your spouse, and, if…

As a mom of four (now adult) kids, I remember well the flood of emotions that came each time they went to my ex’s, especially during the early days of my separation and eventually after my divorce. Not only was…

The holidays can look much different during a divorce than they did only a year earlier, and the changes can take some getting used to. The challenge is that you have to start somewhere, and in these “newer” moments, it…

You can use Collaborative Law to support your process of creating and negotiating a prenup with your partner.

In Washington state, if you are involved in a custody dispute, which involves difficult questions related to specific needs for your children or serious parenting deficits (such as mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence), an evaluation service may be…

Apologizing can be hard, especially if you have a contentious relationship with the person you are apologizing to. If you want to have a polite (even friendly) relationship with your ex in the future, though, owning up to and apologizing…

In the same way that every divorce is different, so, too, is every divorce lawyer and the law firms where they work. From lawyers’ individual personalities, expertise, and experience to law firms’ varying cultures and values which provide the framework…

As a divorce and family law attorney, I have yet to hear of anyone getting married and opening a savings account for divorce fees should they need such an account down the road. I also do not know of anyone…