Understanding Italian family law Marriage and divorce laws

The Italian Civil Code governs family law in Italy and covers issues such as marriage, divorce, civil union and more.

Read our guide to understanding marriage, divorce and child custody laws in Italy. We also explain how an English and Italian-speaking law firm such as Giambrone can assist.

Click on a link to that section:

Read the documents required for getting married in Italy and the process you need to follow.

Find out where Italy stands in regard to civil partnerships.

Read the Italian laws on getting divorced in Italy.

Find out how child custody works in Italy.

How to get married in Italy

If you plan to get married in Italy, you will need to procure a sworn affidavit, known in Italian as an Atto Notorio, and documentation to prove your declaration of intent to marry. In order to get these, you must provide the following:

  • Birth certificates for both parties

  • Passports

  • Proof of previous marriages and divorce documentation (if applicable)

  • A certificate of no impediment if you are a UK citizen.

As you wait for this, you should ensure that you make a bilingual statutory declaration.

Contact us today for assistance in this process, or find out how we can help.

If you are marrying an Italian citizen, you may be seeking to apply for citizenship once you have married. However, you will need to go through certain steps in order to do this.

What process do you need to follow to get married in Italy?

You will need to take the following steps to get married in Italy:

  • You will need to contact your home country’s consulate or embassy in Italy and prepare the Atto Notorio (the sworn affidavit).

  • You will then need to declare your intent to marry; this is an important step whether you are marrying at home or overseas.

  • You need to prepare the correct documents depending on which kind of wedding you will have, and ensure that the area you choose to marry in has the appropriate translator/interpreter (if necessary) available for your ceremony.

Does Italy recognise civil partnerships?

Italy has recognised same-sex civil unions since June 2016, providing same-sex couples with most of the legal protections enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples. If both same-sex partners are Italian citizens, they can establish a civil union both in Italy and abroad. A civil partnership (or other similar union) established abroad between same-sex Italian citizens habitually resident in Italy produces the effects of a civil partnership as though it were regulated under Italian law.

If one partner is a foreign citizen, Italy still recognises the civil partnership, whether the partnership was established in Italy or abroad and allows for the partnership to be registered in the civil status register. The capacity and the other conditions for establishing a civil union are governed by the national law of each party at the time of the constitution of the civil partnership. If the applicable law does not allow civil union between same sex adults, Italian law will apply.

If both partners are foreign citizens, Italy recognises and admits the registration of marriages or civil partnerships established abroad, between same sex foreign citizens, who reside in Italy.

Do you need advice on Italian civil partnership laws, or resolving a dispute? Contact Giambrone today.

What is the law on divorce procedures?

Where the spouses are Italian citizens, Italian courts have jurisdiction over both of them, whether or not the spouses are resident in Italy. Separation and divorce are regulated by the ordinary rules governing jurisdiction in Italy.

Italian divorce procedures are given by the Italian Civil Code which governs family law in the country. Separation proceedings can be found in the Civil Code under Articles 150-158, and divorce under Law number 898, which was issued in 1970.

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

Stipulated in the Law no. 898 of 1970, 436 of 1978, 74 of 1987, and 55 of 2015, there are several basic reasons for filing divorce:

  • Legal separation

  • The marriage was annulled

  • The marriage was not consummated

  • One of the spouses committed a serious crime

  • One of the spouses legally changed their gender

  • One of the spouses is a foreign citizen and divorced/annulled the marriage abroad

  • One of the spouses is a foreign citizen and has remarried.

Find out more in our full guide to Italian divorce laws.

Do Italian laws apply to foreign residents?

For foreign residents who were married in Italy and wish to divorce, the 010 EU Regulations (1259) will apply.

Understanding the difference between separation and divorce

There are two ways to end a marriage: separation and divorce. Generally, the separation procedure is much simpler and officially “temporary” according to Italian family law. This relieves spouses from the obligation of cohabitation but means that they can reconcile at any time.

Getting assistance

It’s important to request assistance on the legal effects of a divorce. These can include distribution of assets and marital property, maintenance payments and alimony, care and contact regulation for children. Get in touch with Giambrone for advice.

Understanding how child custody works in Italy

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.

The different child custody options in Italy include the following:

  1. Exclusive custody of the child.

  2. Joint custody of the child.

  3. Alternating custody of the child.

Find out more about what is involved in these options in our full guide to child custody laws in Italy.

What factors influence who has custody of a child?

  1. 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 child’s health - All aspects of the child’s physical, mental health and age are considered by the court.

  3. History of abuse and lifestyle - The court looks at any history of abuse recorded on either of the parent’s records and the nature of the parents’ lifestyles.

  4. The child’s preference – A child aged 12 years and over will be consulted as to their preference 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 child and parent’s relationship - The court will consider the emotional bond between the parent and child.

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

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. Giambrone & Partners’ cross-border family law team can assist.

How Giambrone can help

Giambrone’s family law team includes members of the International Bar Association, as well as other international family law organisations, and has well-established connections with international law firms worldwide.

We have a wealth of knowledge and experience in family law matters and understand what our clients are going through. Our multi-lingual lawyers are experienced in dealing with all Italian family matters, and can assist clients involved in all family law cases in your own language. Contact us today for assistance.

Related content

Child custody laws in Italy

Italian divorce laws