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Italy court says lesbian couple can adopt each other’s kids

A Rome family court has approved a lesbian couple's request to simultaneously adopt each other's daughters in a legal first in Italy, gay groups said on Tuesday.

Italy court says lesbian couple can adopt each other's kids
Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Against a backdrop of controversy over a move to remove gay adoption rights from a law authorising same sex civil unions, the two women made their application under existing legislation which says the right of a child to “ongoing affection” should be paramount in deciding whether to grant adoption requests.

“Each of these two little girls has a biological parent and a social parent who share parental responsibility fully and equally,” said the couple's lawyer, Francesca Carato, in a statement issued to the media.

The Rome family court since 2014 made at least 15 rulings upholding requests for gay people to be allowed to adopt their partners' children.

But Italy's long-winded legal system makes it difficult to state clearly that the principle that such adoptions should generally be allowed has been established.

Only one of the rulings has been validated on appeal and the issue is destined to be considered eventually by Italy's highest court.

Italy's Senate last week approved a law authorising same sex civil unions after the ruling Democratic Party (PD) bowed to pressure from allies to strip it of provisions guaranteeing homosexuals who enter such unions the right to adopt their partners' children.

The PD is now planning to table a separate bill which will seek to give gay, unmarried couples and single people the same rights as married couples when it comes to adoption.

Italy's divisions over what is referred to as “step-child adoption” were underlined this week when the country's most prominent gay politician, Nichi Vendola, announced that he had had a son with his Canadian partner after employing a surrogate mother in California.

Vendola was accused of “disgusting selfishness” by the leader of the far-right Northern League, Matteo Salvini while Beppe Grillo, outgoing leader of the populist Five Star Movement, said there “is something about the concept of wombs for rent that scares me.”

As things stand, Vendola, a veteran leftist and former governor of the southern region of Puglia, could adopt the baby in the United States. But even if he does so, he will not be automatically recognised as a parent in Italy as his partner is the biological father.

The highest court last week rejected a request to recognise the adoption of a child by the lesbian partner of her mother despite her having been already approved in the United States.

The basis of that ruling was, however, procedural and is not thought to have set a legal precedent.

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MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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