Divorce Law in Italy: Repercussions for International Couples

4 · 27 · 20

Divorce is a difficult process that can present challenges for international couples who are not familiar with the legal system of the country where they got married or currently reside. In this blog post, I will explore the legal repercussions and consequences that international couples may face when dealing with divorce law in Italy. It’s important for international couples to understand the legal repercussions and consequences of divorce law in Italy, whether they are in a traditional marriage or registered partnership.

In Italy, registered partnerships are not yet legally recognized. Therefore, if an international couple in a registered partnership wants to dissolve their union, they may need to do so through other legal means, such as by terminating their partnership in the country of registration or through other legal procedures in Italy.

Matrimonial regimes, which govern the ownership and distribution of property in the event of a divorce, can further complicate matters for international couples dealing with divorce law in Italy.

Divorce Law in Italy: Jurisdiction Issues

When it comes to divorce, the law of the state where the marriage took place is enforceable. For instance, for an Italian and a French citizen who marry in France, French law applies to their divorce. However, if the couple has different nationalities and their marriage took place in Italy, Italian law applies. Additionally, according to EU Regulation No. 1259/2010, the court in the jurisdiction where the spouses last habitually resided (if one of them still resides there) has the authority to decide on divorce, legal separation, and marriage annulment. For example, if an American and a British citizen were living in Rome before separating, an Italian court would have jurisdiction over their divorce proceedings.

Relevant Italian Laws

It is worth noting that, in the Italian system, Law No. 218/1995 regulates situations in which it is necessary to define which jurisdiction and laws should apply (Italian or foreign). It states that, in case of legal separation and dissolution of marriage, it applies “the common national law of the spouses at the time of the application for separation or dissolution of marriage” or, if this is not possible, the law of the state in which the couple’s married life is “predominantly located.”

Habitual Residence

The Court of Justice of the European Union has dealt with the concept of “habitual residence” in relation to the jurisdiction rule on parental responsibility. According to the judgment in Case C-523/07, habitual residence corresponds to the place indicating a certain integration into a social and family environment.

Legal Separation

In Italy, there are two types of legal separation: consensual separation and judicial separation. Consensual separation is a mutual agreement between spouses, which the court then approves. On the other hand, judicial separation involves hearings and discussions before spouses reach an agreement, and the judge determines which spouse is responsible for the failure of the marriage.

Grounds for Divorce

In Italy, either spouse may file for divorce on any of the following grounds: legal separation, annulment, dissolution of or a new marriage entered into by the other spouse abroad, non-consummation of the marriage, or change of sex. If the couple agrees to divorce according to a mutually requested separation, a divorce can only happen after six months of continuous separation beginning on the date the spouses appeared before the court to file for legal separation. The waiting period for divorce based on a separation obtained by one spouse alone is 12 months.


Navigating divorce law in Italy can be a complex process for international couples, especially when considering factors such as matrimonial regimes and jurisdiction issues. It is important to understand the legal implications and consequences before embarking on this difficult journey. If you have any personal experiences or opinions regarding Italian divorce law, I invite you to share them in the comments below.

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