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MARRIAGE

Italy just revolutionized the way it calculates alimony

Divorcees in Italy will no longer have to pay for their exes to maintain the same standard of living as during their marriage, after a 'revolutionary' ruling by the country's top court.

Italy just revolutionized the way it calculates alimony
Photo: bacho123456/Depositphotos

In Wednesday's Court of Cassation ruling, judges “established new parameters” for the calculation of alimony, the court's chief press officer Raffaele Botta said in a statement.

While alimony payments had previously been established with the goal of “maintaining the matrimonial standard of living”, the court instead said on Wednesday that payments should be based purely on guaranteeing “the economic independence or self-sufficiency of the spouse who requests it”.

In other words, divorcees are likely to receive smaller monthly payments than in the past, particularly in cases where their ex-spouse was wealthy.

The president of the Italian Academy of Family Lawyers, Gian Ettore Gassani, said the ruling, which related to the divorce between a former Italian minister and his ex-wife, was a “revolution”. 

“One of the fundamental principles of the law governing alimony has been cancelled,” said Gassani.

The court itself said that the change was necessary in order to “overcome the patrimonial view of marriage as 'final settlement'.

Modern marriage, the judges said, was generally an “act of freedom and personal responsibility”, and so should be completely “dissolvable”, meaning that ex-spouses were not responsible for a partner's possible loss of income during the marriage.

Italy's alimony laws have led to controversial decisions over the years.

In 2013, a woman was denied financial support from her ex-husband due to a “shopping addiction”, while last year, a court in Padua ruled that a man could make his monthly maintenance payments to his wife in the form of pizza.

In one of the country's most high-profile divorce cases, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was ordered to pay his second wife, Veronica Lario, a monthly allowance of €3 million. This amount was reduced to €1.4 million after the millionaire media magnate appealed the decision. 

Divorce, Italian style

Italy had no provision for divorce until 1970 and the difficulties caused by this were the subject of a celebrated 1961 film “Divorce, Italian Style”. The comedy features Marcello Mastroianni as a Sicilian noble who cooks up a plot to kill his wife in a crime of passion so he can be free to marry a younger model.

However, legislation which came into force last year made it easier and quicker to end marriages – prompting a 57 percent surge in the divorce rate.

Now only one year of official separation is necessary before couples can begin divorce proceedings, or six months in the case of a separation by mutual consent. Previously, couples had to be officially separated for three years.

READ ALSO: Soon, married Italians might not have to promise to be faithful

Soon, married Italians might not have to promise to be faithful
File photo: Pexels

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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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