A Guide to Divorce in Italy
Calogero-Boccadutri
Calogero Boccadutri

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Divorce in Italy, except under abnormal circumstances, is permitted following a period of separation (usually 6 months) after separation by mutual consent, or a year after a judicial separation.

Divorce in Italy is typically the result of two separate proceedings: separation, and divorce.  In exceptional circumstances, however, it is possible to divorce immediately.

Since the institution of divorce was legally introduced in Italy in 1970, with the Law No. 898 of December 1st 1970 (entitled ‘’Disciplina dei casi di scioglimento del matrimonio’’), many changes have been made, such as the Law 55/2015 or the Short Divorce Law, which has reduced the time to apply for divorce from 3 year to 6 months in the case of separation of mutual consent, and to one year in the case of judicial separation.

The causes of divorce

The so-called ‘grounds for divorce’ can be numerous and do not always solely concern the incompatibility of spouses’ personalities.

Some of them lead to immediate divorce, depending on whether or not the situation can be remedied.

They are listed as:

  • Legal separation of the spouses,
  • Serious criminal conviction for offenses committed within the family (this is a reason for direct/immediate divorce)
  • Sentence of acquittal, for one of these crimes, due to mental defect (this is a reason for direct/immediate divorce)
  • Non-consummation of marriage (this is the cause of direct/immediate divorce)
  • Marriage with another spouse, annulment of the marriage or divorce obtained abroad by the foreign spouse (this is a reason for direct/immediate divorce)
  • A conclusive judgment from court, in the case that none of the parties have appealed within the terms of the law, by appearing in the court of appeal.

Procedure of Divorce: steps to obtain divorce

The procedure for divorce, and consequently the steps leading to a divorce, change depending on the way in which you wish to get divorced.

What do you need to do to get a divorce? There are two possible routes:

  1. The consensual route
  2. The judicial route

Divorce by mutual consent, that begins with separation, represents an agreement.

Judicial divorce, always preceded by separation, is a full-scale lawsuit.

What to do to obtain consensual divorce

Divorce is not an automatic consequence of six months of separation but requires a formal request.

In choosing the most suitable divorce procedure, the request can be influenced by various discriminating factors such as the presence or absence of children, the willingness of the parties to delegate to a lawyer, or even the willingness of the parties to reach out-of-court settlement.

Divorce by Means of a Court, or joint, hearing

Even in a consensual divorce, the parties may choose to go to court. It should be noted that this choice may extend the process by up to six months.

The procedure is as follows:

  • A joint application is filed with the court, setting out conditions for the divorce.
  • The court schedules a hearing for the couple with the President of the Court.
  • The couple appear at the hearing to confirm that they wish to proceed in accordance with the agreement as laid out in the document filed and to refuse the compulsory opportunity for reconciliation.
  • The agreement is forwarded to the public prosecutor, who in turn accepts it.
  • A court judgment approves the court agreement.
  • The judgment, having become legally binding, is sent by the clerk to the civil registrar of the Comune in which the marriage was registered.

Consensual divorce via assisted negotiation

Assisted divorce is desirable in cases of agreement. The estimated time frame for a divorce via means of assisted negotiation is less than two months.

In the presence of their lawyers, the soon to be separated couple agree on the terms of the divorce. The lawyers, as public officials, authenticate the “assisted negotiation agreement”.

The agreement is sent to the public prosecutor, at the relevant office for the territory.

The prosecutor, if they consider the agreement to be in order, may issue a “nulla osta” or authorisation and the agreement is sent to the civil registrar, who may register the divorce on the marriage certificate.

In the case that the couple have minor children, or children who, although of age, are incapacitated or severely handicapped, this step must take place within 10 days.

As concerns the public prosecutor, should they find the agreement to be in some way inadequate, they will have 5 days to declare it to be so to the President of the Court that ought to set a comparative hearing for the parents.

Consensual divorce at the Commune

It is also possible to obtain a divorce without legal assistance by appearing before they mayor or a civil registrar acting on their behalf.

The fulfilment of the divorce, in this case, can only take place if there are no minor children or adult children in a position of dependency be it financial or physical due to incapacity or disability.

In addition, this agreement may not comprise the transfer of assets. A maintenance payment may be included but may not be made out in a single payment.

What to do in order to obtain divorce following a judicial separation

Divorce is not an automatic consequence of a couple’s separation. Even if the separation has lasted more than a year the parties will still need to make a formal request.

In contrast to a consensual divorce, the possible ways of pursuing a divorce following a judicial separation are limited and a court settlement is inevitable.

At this stage, specifically once the deadlines for filing for divorce have passed, there is still time to reach an agreement with the former partner and to opt for one of the methods by which a consensual divorce is possible.

Contentious Divorce

Contentious divorce is divorce without agreement or consensus on the marital breakdown or form of separation.

In this case, one of the two spouses, the plaintiff, appeals to court with their own requests and demands in regard to their disagreement to the marriage (otherwise known as complaint for divorce) on the other spouse.

The other spouse, the defendant (or respondent), responds to these requests, and may oppose them and present their own points by making an appearance in court.

Summary Phase

During the first stage of Contentious Divorce, i.e. the summary (or pretrial) procedure, the spouses appear before the President of the Court (or relevant Presiding Officer), who is obliged to issue the measures he or she deems most appropriate to protect any children and/or the spouses themselves.

At this point, a Judge is appointed for the subsequent stage.

Examination Phase

During the second stage of Contentious Divorce, i.e. the investigation, hearings take place during which evidence is presented and examined, witnesses are heard and, if possible, so are the children.

This allows the Court to form its own view of the situation and to introduce the divorce decree and lay down the conditions of the divorce. If the spouses do not appeal, the divorce decree becomes final.

The clerk will then communicate the divorce to the civil registrar of the Commune in which the marriage was registered.

What are the consequences or effects of divorce?

Once the divorce decree has been pronounced in Italy, the marriage bond is completely dissolved. Both the spouses regain their ‘’free’’ status and can enter into a new marriage that is valid under civil law.

The wife loses her husband’s surname, unless she applies to keep it and obtains authorisation from the judge.

Custody of Children

In case of couples with children that are minors, or children who have reached the age of consent and are not self-sufficient, incapacitated or are seriously handicapped, the divorce decree must rule on their custody.

The parent with whom the children will be living with most of the time tends to be left the family home.

Allocation of common property

Children or not, the distribution of the house and other joint assets will still have to be decided if they are owned.

Spousal Support

Depending on the status of the assets, one of the spouses may have to pay the other a regular ‘’divorce allowance’’, traditionally referred to as ‘’alimony’’.

If the parties reach an agreement to this effect, the regular allowance may be replaced by a single allowance paid in a lump sum, subject to the agreement of the court, which must ensure that the amount is appropriate.

Civil Marriage

In the case of Civil Marriage, celebrated in church and registered in a civil office, council or state registry (otherwise known as ‘’Commune’’), only the civil status of the marriage ceases, but in order to dissolve the religious bond, a pronouncement of annulment is required from the Regional Ecclesiastical Tribunal or the Sacra Rota.

Severance Pay

A spouse in receipt of a maintenance allowance is entitled, if he or she has not remarried, to a percentage of the severance pay received by the other spouse on termination of employment, even if accrued and received after the judgment.

The right is limited to the years in which the employment agreement coincided with the marriage, so a percentage of forty percent is calculated for those years (Art. 12 (bis), Law 898/1970).

Survivor’s Pension

In the event of the death of a former spouse, in the absence of a subsequent marriage, the spouse who has been receiving maintenance payments up to that point (not having remarried), will be entitled to a survivor’s pension, provided that the employment contract from which the pension is derived preceded the divorce decree in Italy.

If there is a surviving spouse who qualifies for a survivor’s pension the court will have to establish, based on the duration of the marriage and the level of need, the shares to be allocated.

A separated spouse is also entitled to a survivor’s allowance, unless they have already been ordered to separate and the court has not recognised their right to receive a divorce allowance.

Inheritance Rights

The divorced spouse has no right over the other spouses’ estate, at his or her death, but could be included in the will. In addition, in case of demonstrated need, according to the provisions of Article 9 of Law 898 (bis) of 1970, they may receive an ‘inheritance’ allowance from their heirs.

The conditions for this to happen are:

  • The divorced spouse was receiving spousal support before the death of the deceased.
  • The divorced spouse is in a state of extreme need.

In any case, this right would cease if maintenance had already been paid in a lump sum or if a new marriage was contracted.

In addition, if the state of need ceases, the payment of the inheritance allowances ceases.

Our lawyers in the Family Law Department of Boccadutri International Law Firm, will be able to follow you through the separation and divorce process, answering all your questions and clarifying all your doubts.

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Calogero Boccadutri
Managing Partner

Calogero Boccadutri is the Managing Partner of Boccadutri International Law Firm. He has trial experience in Forex, Personal Injury and Administrative litigation.

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20 Comments

  1. 3b63956cef1553a37a60f7009ed9474c?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Coline 18 January 2019 at 22:30 - Reply

    Hi there, I read the divorce process and I would like to ask some questions if it is possible. Originally I am Lebanese, I met my husband in Dubai which he is Italian and we got married in 2010 in the church in Dubai now we have 2 kids 8years and 4 years. After I lost my job in Dubai in 2017 I moved with my kids to Italy and my husband remained in Saudi Arabia as live and work there since 2016. He returned back to Italy in Dec 2017 and worked in Italy for 6 month till Jun 2018 and then he returned back to his previous job in Saudi Arabia. In Feb 2018 while he was still in Italy I found a love message on his mobile from his colleague. Since then I can’t trust him anymore, the problems became more and more unsupportable. Since I am living in Italy and he is living in Saudi Arabia the life become very difficult. Many times I asked him for divorce since he is delaying and finding excuses many times for not be moving us to Saudi Arabia and live all of us under one roof. I asked him few days ago to divorce. My question is I want to know if he will file for a separation or divorce; he must come to Italy personally and start the process or he can do all over the phone from Saudi to Italy? since he is not living in Italy, am I obliged to stay with the kids herr until the separation or the divorce take place and he remain living in Saudi or we must all of us leaving in one common country? does he has the right to keep me here in Italy and he stayed in Saudi? do I need to be prisoner in Italy with my kids until the process is done? what about the custody of my kids? Since I got married in Dubai will it be complicated? Your respond to my questions is highly appreciated. Best Regards, Coline

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 19 January 2019 at 20:02 - Reply

      Dear Madam,

      Thanks for your comment. You will receive our email with the next steps soon.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  2. 04e55e985f00a24e19b387a772b56e55?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Sunny 5 February 2019 at 15:25 - Reply

    Hi there,

    Good afternoon, we have a question.

    I am a Non- EUand my spouse is Italian, we got married in Ireland 2015 and separated in 2016 due to domestic violence.

    We are thinking to apply divorce in Italy due to long wait in Ireland, would this be possible? My spouse doesnt have a address in Italy anymore.

    Thank you

  3. 51c2f1233fb451af72c5a8d0509f0a5b?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    John. 10 March 2019 at 22:42 - Reply

    Hello, it was nice reading this article, but I have some questions to ask. I have been married with my wife for about 6 years now. We got married in Italy in commune, and we have two children, one is 6 and the other 3. We have been living separately for about 3 years now. Right now she leaves in Germany while I’m still living in Italy, we have both decided to go for devorce, since there is no love anymore, and she has found someone else that she want. My question is, how do we go about the devorce? And how long will it take? Thanks for your quick response.

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 11 March 2019 at 17:16 - Reply

      Dear John,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  4. b52693f60cacc03ff69b4c7a207a6d03?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Asoen 12 March 2019 at 14:57 - Reply

    Good day. I am from South Africa and married to an Italian. He no longer wants to stay married after just a few months. I asked him to wait until I have my citizenship then get divorced. He tells me to go stay on my own, threatening me that he has the power to send me back to my country without citizenship. I would benefit more from having citizenship than applying for work visa. My question: should he support me financially when I get out of his house because I cannot afford it? What are my legal rights or should I just bow down to him and do whatever he asks so that I can get citizenship. Thank you very much.

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 12 March 2019 at 17:07 - Reply

      Dear Asoen,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  5. a646f0b6f739c65b4e6b5a578933e9ce?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Nancy Imomoh 18 March 2019 at 13:27 - Reply

    Hello,
    I just read your divorce process and I would like to ask a question please,Am Nigerian and my husband is Italian I and my husband met in Dubai 2013 & got married 2016 in Dubai we have 2 beautiful kids ,all is well with us only until whenever his parents visit or we visit them in Italy.the issue is the Dad always want to make decisions for us always interfering whenever I have issues with my husband now am tired and ask my husband for a divorce he refused but not willing to speak with his parents to stop their interference in our business ,I admit I have anger issues trying to control it but can’t keep shut when they do.so my questions is how do I go about the process as he’s not willing to grant a divorce and not able to speak with his parents in other not to hurt them.we both leave in Dubai my husband has no Resident in Italy anymore.please your response will be much appreciated

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 18 March 2019 at 13:40 - Reply

      Dear Nancy,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  6. d3012e6a9cf07ab4da0e8263cdc35155?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Joanna Zal 12 May 2019 at 21:55 - Reply

    I got married in Rome, Italy 3 days ago and I’ve made mistake marrying my husband. We got married in the church in Italy, we both are Irish citizens living permanently in Ireland. I should have said no at the alter but I felt bad for my parents dragging them all the way to Italy for my wedding and calling it off last minute. Spending a fortune on my wedding with every last bit of my savings I pressured myself to marry him knowing we not gonna make it, I’m looking for divorce even better annulment but whatever way I can’t get out of this marriage. Is the fact I’m only married few days helps me to get out of this marriage fast ??? My husband announced the day after we got married he wants to use condoms coz he doesn’t want to have a baby with me telling me our relationship is not stable calling us getting married the biggest mistake of our lives. Please note that we discussed trying for a baby right after we get married and even started 2 weeks prior to our wedding, me coming off the pill last month. Would that qualify to get annulment since my husband now doesn’t want to have a baby with me? I’m devastated I’ve got myself into this and I’m in such a dark place of my life now, I really would appreciate your help and advice. I’ve no one I can talk to.

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 25 June 2019 at 11:07 - Reply

      Dear Joanna,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  7. a88c4f6fae2405d43a19b1d6375c4f23?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Thamandri Govender 14 July 2019 at 8:41 - Reply

    Dear Mr Boccadutri
    I am a South African citizen and I am married to an Italian. I now have dual citizenship after 17 years of marriage . We have two children 6 and 12, and current living in the Netherlands for the last 7 years. We were married in South Africa but was that that time living in Italy. The marriage was register in Italy . We are married under community of property with article 177..
    He has a pension here for 7 years and he has a pension in the USA, because we lived there as well for 3 years, that I am aware of.
    We are now divorced since April under Dutch law but the assets still not separated according to Italian law and article 177.
    My question:
    Can I claim for the pension in the USA for the period during the marriage under Italian law?
    Can he withdraw money that he put into our home as Personal Money first and then split the remainder of the money between us?
    I pray that you can give me some solid answers.
    Thank you.

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 10 September 2019 at 10:20 - Reply

      Dear Thamandri,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  8. 9cd2d11c8a745ea2c8880c965f2e27a1?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    Carol 29 December 2019 at 18:33 - Reply

    Hi, my husband is Italian but also an American citizen and we live in the USA. His ex wife, also Italian lives here in USA. They got Married in Italy but divorce in the USA.

    Still necessary to divorce in Italy?

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 3 January 2020 at 17:42 - Reply

      Dear Carol,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

  9. 82e364d3bb3aefb9159c18150b05b8a5?s=54&d=blank&r=g
    amnuay Etro 23 February 2020 at 6:03 - Reply

    I have a question about divorce:
    I am from Thailand,with thai and Italian citizenship my husbond is Italian: I want divorce, I am living in Thailand for some years now and my husbond is living in Italy. I am living with another man here in Thailand.
    Our mariage is registrated in Thailand and Italy, in Thailand I can get the divorce fast and without any problems, but in Italy I am not sure how a divorce can happends. I read that if one of the persons have a forreign citizenship, then there is some special way to get a italy divorce ?
    How we can get divorced ?

    • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
      Calogero Boccadutri 25 February 2020 at 11:28 - Reply

      Dear Etro,

      Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

      Kind regards,
      Calogero

      • 2170d60e9547384aba17e7c8b1ac491d?s=54&d=blank&r=g
        Clement 31 July 2020 at 23:14 - Reply

        Hi there
        Good evening I have a question.
        I am a Nigeria and mummy is a Nigeria too but she married Italian man since 2003 and she didn’t have any child for the Italian man and the man is very sick now and the man is planning to sell his property what is my mom Faith here I want to know the next step for my mom to take now .

        • 59652a4edfaecf0843d874e01e76c029?s=54&d=blank&r=g
          Calogero Boccadutri 4 August 2020 at 11:46 - Reply

          Dear Clement,

          Thanks for your comment. Our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

          Kind regards,
          Calogero

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