Divorce, Italian Style, version 2015. New law significantly shortens waiting times.


Marcello Mastroianni as the frustrated unhappy husband in the 1961 film “Divorce, Italian Style”

When I first moved to Italy in 1972, divorce in a limited form – after three years of legal separation and obligatory attempts at reconciliation − had been introduced only two years prior. The influence of the Church was such that before 1970, unhappily-married  Italians could get a legal separation but could never get remarried.

After 1970, thanks to the new law that had been pushed through parliament by a coalition of leftists and liberals, things had changed. And attitudes really changed  after 1974,  when over 59% of Italians voted in a popular referendum to defeat an attempt by conservatives and the Church to abrogate the 1970 law.

However, getting a divorce in Italy has always been a lengthy, expensive and bureaucratically difficult process, which may in part account for the fact that the divorce rate here is still far lower than that in many other countries as well as encouraging far fewer people than in the past to actually tie the knot.

But that is no more.  With the approval – by 398 to 28 – of parliament, the so-called “Divorzio breve” has now become law. Indeed, as of April 22, 2015,  Italians seeking a divorce will be able to do so (not forced to, simply able to do so) after only 12 months of legal separation (down from three years) and only six months if the desire to divorce is consensual, whether or not the couple has children.

“This is a step forward in civilization”, said Donatella Ferrante, a member of the left-leaning Partito Democratico,  and president of the Justice Commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies”. She described the new law as “balanced and realistic, one that will make the judicial process easier by reducing the time for contentiousness”. Shortening the time for obtaining a divorce, she added, will make it easier to resolve conflicts between the parties and will thereby safeguard the serenity of any offspring.

Not everyone, of course, is happy about this. Famiglia Cristiana, the Roman Catholic weekly, wrote last week that the new law is a big mistake particularly where children are involved. The magazine insists that given the greater time for reflection, many couples with children have decided not to go ahead with a separation. “To reduce marriage to something similar to a flexible cohabitation pact that can be easily dissolved is a danger for all involved, starting with the children, the real victims of these cases”.


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