Child custody laws in Italy Your guide to divorce and child custody

Divorce is one of the most challenging situations that an individual experiences and it nearly always impacts on the children of the marriage. Custody arrangements are often difficult and can be more so in cross-border divorce. Being aware of how child custody following divorce is implemented and the Italian court’s approach to this difficult area is essential to arriving at a reasonable arrangement.

Below we explain the Italian law surrounding child custody options after a divorce, discussing the responsibilities of the parents and how child custody can be awarded.

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What rights do children have after the divorce of their parents?

Articles of the Civil Code regulate matters relating to child custody in Italy. Following a divorce, it is the child’s right to have continuous contact with both parents, including where one parent has sole custody of the child. Italian law incorporates joint responsibility of both parents to ensure children are educated and are adequately cared for.

How does the Italian court decide who has custody of a child?

During both the judicial separation and the divorce proceedings, the judge will determine which spouse (or whether both spouses) will have custody of the child, and establish the type and amount of support the other spouse will provide.

Key factors for awarding child custody in Italy include:

  1. The health of the parents – the court will establish that the custodial parent or parents have sufficient physical and mental health to undertake the responsibility of caring for the children.
  2. The health of the child. All aspects of the child’s physical, mental health and age are considered by the court.
  3. The court looks at any history of abuse recorded on either of the parent’s records and the nature of the parents’ lifestyles
  4. A child aged 12 years and over will be consulted with regard to which parent they would prefer to live with.
  5. Parents’ ability to provide for the child – the court will look into financially stability of both parents.
  6. The court will consider the emotional bond between the parent and child.

Should the court consider is necessary, due to any serious reasons, it can order that the child or children be placed in an educational institution or with a third party, should it be found that neither parent is suitable to have custody of the children.

Are you involved in a dispute relating to child custody after a divorce? Click here to see how we can assist you.

Obtaining joint custody

Joint custody is normally viewed as the preferred arrangement for the custody of children. In fact, Civil Code Section 337 quarter affirms that sole custody is only ordered when the joint custody is not in the child’s best interests or if one parent is unable to provide child support. Where both parents want joint custody, the judge will acknowledge and certify such agreement determining the residence and visiting times for the child relating to the parent that is not resident.

It is highly recommended that you seek legal assistance when seeking joint custody of your child.

What are the different options of child custody in Italy?

  1. Exclusive custody of the child – This option means that only one of the parents is granted custody of the child. The designated parent has a right to take the most important decisions in a child’s daily life, and has a complete parental responsibility. The other parent has limited responsibilities, and these will be decided by the Italian court.
  2. Joint custody of the child – this agreement calls for both parents to have and must assume parental responsibilities for the child. This option respects the child’s interest to have contact with both parents, providing both parents are seen by the court to be fit and proper persons to have custody of the child.
  3. Alternating custody of the child – In this case, both parents have a right to exclusively have parental responsibility for a fixed period when custody is granted to them. Each one of them has a predetermined time of custody.

What happens after child custody has been granted in Italy?

After custody has been granted, the rights and obligations of each parent depending on the type of custody that has been granted, and the terms decided by the Italian court. Even if shared custody has been granted, some aspects of child custody may also need to be clearly defined. For example, the court will establish the place where the permanent residency of a child will be. The Italian court recognises that a single place of residence is important for a child’s development.

The obligations of the parents also depend on the relationship between the parents – if the parents have a good relationship, the court will not provide a clear schedule as to when the child stays with the other parent. However, if the parents have a contentious relationship, the court will provide a very clear schedule that must be adhered to.

The arrangements made in court have validity until the child reaches the age of 18 years.

Are you dealing with a child custody issue after a divorce? Giambrone & Partners’ cross-border family law team can assist.

A skilled family lawyer with experience of Italian family law can ensure you are supported throughout your divorce case. Our Italian family lawyers advise on all areas of family and children law, including custodial and non-custodial parental rights and the creation of alternative family structures. We have a specialist department relating to issues regarding children in family law matters, with specific expertise in all aspects of international children law, particularly concerning Special Guardianship Orders.

The needs and welfare of children will always be paramount in any legal dispute and we will work with our clients to reduce any impact on the children of the family. We understand that you will have worries about the care of your child, together with financial and contact issues.

We recognise that our clients require a sensitive and practical approach as well as legal expertise and knowledge. To discuss your circumstances and get the support you need, contact us today.

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