Marriage & Divorce in Italy

What you should know

To be married in Italy, a couple must appear before the civil registrar ( ufficiale di stato civile) of the town where the marriage is to take place with two witnesses and make a declaration of their intention to marry.

You must present all necessary documents, which must be translated into Italian and certified by an Italian Consular Officer. These include your passport, birth certificate, a final divorce ( sentenza di divorzio) or annulment decree or death certificate (if previously married) and, if either party is under 18, a sworn statement of consent to the marriage by the parents or legal guardians.

You also need the inevitable fiscal stamp! You may also need to obtain a ‘certificate of no impediment’ ( nulla osta) from a consulate stating that according to the laws to which you’re subject in your home country, there’s no obstacle to your marriage.

Presentation of this declaration allows the authorities to reduce the time before a marriage licence is granted from three weeks to around four days.

A divorced woman must wait nine months or obtain dispensation from a local court before she can remarry in Italy, because she could be pregnant by her former husband at the time of the divorce.

After the declaration is made, it’s usually necessary for banns ( pubblicazioni matrimoniali) or the announcement of the forthcoming marriage, to be posted at the local town hall ( comune sometimes referred to as municipio) and church (for a church wedding) for two consecutive Sundays before the marriage occurs if either party is Italian or resident in Italy.

However, banns are waived by the civil registrar if neither party to the marriage is Italian or is residing in Italy. The couple may be married in a civil or religious ceremony on the fourth day following the second Sunday on which the banns are posted (or any time after banns have been waived).

Weddings in Italy

Over 75 per cent of weddings in Italy are performed in church. Catholic churches require that both parties are baptised and confirmed Catholics, and attend a church ‘pre-matrimonial course’. If a religious ceremony is performed by a Roman Catholic priest, a separate civil ceremony is unnecessary, but the priest must register the marriage with the civil registrar in order for it to be legal.

Due to the special requirements that apply to marriages performed by non-Roman Catholic clergymen, however, you must usually undergo a civil ceremony before the religious ceremony in order to ensure the legality of the marriage. A civil ceremony is usually performed by the mayor or civil registrar at the local town hall in front of two witnesses. There’s nothing to pay apart from the inevitable fiscal stamp (€10.33). The authorities require the presence of a translator if neither party speaks Italian.

Family law in Italy

Family law has seen many reforms in recent decades, including the abolition of the husband’s status as head of the household and the legalisation of divorce and abortion. Couples married in Italy must choose between shared ownership ( comunità dei beni) and separate ownership ( separazione dei beni) of their worldly goods in the event of divorce or death (which can have important consequences).

Foreigners from countries without matrimonial regimes are usually shown as having married without regime or the equivalent of separazione dei beni. A wife isn’t required to take her husband’s name upon marriage and some retain their maiden names. However, some wives append their husband’s surname to their own – either in front or behind.

Divorce in Italy

Divorce has been possible in Italy only since 1970. You can be divorced in Italy if your marriage took place there or if one of a couple is Italian or a resident in the country.

With the exception of divorce by consent, divorce is a complicated matter in Italy and is best avoided if it can be accomplished abroad, which is possible when one of a couple isn’t Italian or you were married abroad. For two non-Italians or when only one partner is Italian, foreign law may take precedence over Italian law. A couple divorcing by consent must wait three years to be divorced but couples not divorcing by consent must wait five years after fault has been proved.

The other difference is the cost; divorce by consent costs little or nothing, while a contested divorce costs many thousands of euros. When a couple decide to divorce, they go before a judge who offers them the choice of a reconciliation or a formal separation ( separazione formale) for one year. Financial matters should also be dealt with at this time.

The mother is usually given custody of the children, with access for the father, and once they reach the age of ten they can (within certain guidelines) decide which parent they want to live with. Catholics who no longer wish to be married but equally don’t want to get divorced, can obtain a formal judicial separation.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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