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Review of Italian and EU Divorce Law

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An introduction to Italian and EU Divorce Law

Many of our clients, friends and family members are part of a cross-cultural relationship and for the most part it is an enriching and beautiful experience but it can also difficult to manage. When it comes to marriage and children it is wise to speak to experts both for emotional support and legal support. Regrettably, international separations and divorces are becoming more common. Italian and EU Divorce Law

Obviously, people don’t enter in to married life thinking about where the best location for a divorce would be. However, where couples choose to divorce can have a major impact on both parties’ financial health, so getting it right is very important. Delays in deciding this could result in a disastrous outcome.

Changes to Italian Divorce Law

In May, 2015 Italy introduced the so-called ‘quickie divorce’ law, which cut the amount of time it takes to get a divorce from three years to as little as six months. The new Italian legislation cuts the time it takes to get a divorce to six months in uncontested cases and a year in contested cases.

While the new law still retains a two-step process – separation and divorce – there are three important changes:

  1. In the case of separazione consensuale – consensual separation – requested by both partners, the period of legal separation is now six months. After the six-month separation, which begins once the couple has filed an application for separation in court, the couple may file for divorce.
  2. In the case of separazione giudiziale – judicial separation – only one partner is requesting a divorce, or the couple contest issues such as child custody, division of assets (including property) or alimony arrangements, the parties have to wait 12 months to file for divorce following a court application for separation. If the procedure of separation is still pending following the 12-month period, perhaps for example because parties cannot agree on financial and other aspects of the separation, each party will be entitled to file for divorce. In this case, the processes for separation and divorce will be merged and handled by the judge appointed to rule over the judicial separation.
  3. The new law is applicable to separation cases that are currently pending. So, those who have already filed for separation will benefit from shorter divorce procedure times.

The European Union Divorce Law

The EU Divorce Law Pact or Rome III Regulation aims at implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the law applicable to divorce and legal separation.  Essentially, this EU divorce law allows expat couples in Italy – and mixed marriage couples, where one partner is Italian and the other not – to choose either the divorce laws of Italy, or the laws of the country where the couple previously lived or the country of their nationality. The decision of which country’s law will apply, needs to be made before divorce proceedings begin.

The Rome III Regulation was adopted by 15 countries including Italy. The UK opted out – so

If a couple does not stipulate an applicable country law, divorce procedures will be governed by Italian courts and legislation if a couple is ordinarily resident in Italy or one partner is resident in Italy and starts proceedings here. However, if the other partner, for example, returns to the UK for six months or more and starts proceedings there before Italian proceedings begin, UK courts and law will govern the divorce.

Another aspect to consider in the choice of divorce law is matrimonial regimes. UK courts often split assets owned by a couple 50/50, whereas Italian courts look more closely at what belongs to whom. This is because when they get married, couples in Italy may choose between a matrimonial regime of shared ownership, comunione dei beni or separate ownership separazione dei beni of their worldly goods in the event of divorce or death.

Unless otherwise stipulated in an agreement, which can be made at the start of a marriage or at any time during a marriage, comunione dei beni is regarded as the default matrimonial regime. Expat couples married elsewhere but resident in Italy are regarded as being married according to this regime. In the comunione dei beni regime, property acquired by the couple during their marriage, whether individually or together, forms part of the couples’ shared ownership. In the event of a divorce, these assets will be split 50/50.

However, there are exceptions. For example, property acquired by a partner prior to the marriage, or property acquired after the marriage as a gift or an inheritance would not be split in the case of a divorce. The choice of matrimonial regimes can therefore have an important impact on choice of applicable law.

Consider the case of an English couple who married in the UK 12 years ago. Since then, the wife has inherited a significant sum of money as well as a house in Italy from her parents. 4 years ago, the husband persuaded the wife that they should move to Italy to live in the wife’s inherited property. Then, after 12 months, the husband moved back to the UK where he issued divorce proceedings. The UK court gave the husband 50% of all the couples’ assets. The Italian courts would have treated the inherited assets as belonging solely to the wife.

Each case is different. There are many issues that need to be taken in to account and at a very stressful time. Which applicable law to choose, requires very careful thought and consideration. An Experienced lawyer will be familiar with cross-border cases, and the complexities which make these divorces so difficult.

Please note, any statement made in this review is intended to be a general practical introductory explanation only and not formal legal advice. This firm accepts no liability or any responsibility for any statement made.

Contact us today. We can help.

Defects and non-compliances in Italian property purchases

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Defects and non-compliancesItalian property purchases – What’s the legal position when it comes to defects and non-compliances?

During our legal careers, my father and I have dealt with all sorts of seemingly improbable scenarios. The couple from Scotland who discovered they had bought a property that didn’t actually legally belong to the vendor. The German family, who arrived in Tuscany for their first holiday at their recently purchased dream property to find the previous owner’s brother and family in residence. It transpired that the brother was a co-owner of the property, who had no idea the property had been ‘sold’. Read more

Selling properties in Italy? What you should know.

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20Selling properties in Italy can often be a difficult and lengthy process, so it is important to make things easier for yourself by preparing and understanding what’s involved. The first stage is to put the property on the market, either as a private sale or though an estate agency.

If you are considering appointing an Italian real estate agent, it is important to ensure that the agent is qualified and registered with the local Chamber of Commerce in full compliance with Italian law. Read more

Power of Attorney

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ImmagineAs a solicitor, I am often engaged to act on behalf of my clients in very important legal matters. My clients trust me, my knowledge and experience to handle their affairs by giving me a Power of Attorney. You may have heard of a Power of Attorney, but do you know exactly what its purpose is or when it is used?

In order to shed a little light on the subject, here are a few basic facts about a Power of Attorney together with the legal ramifications as they pertain to purchasing and/or inheriting real estate property in Italy Read more

Italian conveyancing process: the lawyer’s role

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This post is intended as a general guide. For more comprehensive information on Italian conveyancing process, you might like to read our Property Buying Guide. If you are in doubt about any specific issue, please contact me or consult your lawyer.37

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of property ownership from vendor to buyer. It starts when your formal offer – Proposta in italian, on a property is accepted and finishes once you have signed the deed of sale, Atto di Vendita, at completion. Read more

Hidden Defects in an Italian Property

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Hidden Defects in an Italian Property… Buyers Beware!

Where exactly do you stand if you discover major hidden defects with your Italian property following completion? You move into your dream Italian home only to find that the condition of the property is significantly worse than anticipated.

hidden defects

This is exactly the nightmare scenario the Wright family in Lazio found themselves in. The day after moving in, the family discovered serious water penetration into several rooms in the house, notably the kitchen and living room.

Following their discovery, the Wrights raised the matter with the previous owners, who denied there was a serious problem; the particulars of the property had provided no information on its condition, and the Public Notary also considered that given the Wrights had signed a legally binding Proposta d’Acquisto declaring that they were purchasing the property ‘in condition as seen’, then there was nothing he could do. Read more

Reverse mortgage

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In December 2015 the Italian Ministry of Economic Development signed a decree implementing the new reverse mortgage, a form of equity release financing.reverse mortgage

The reverse mortgage allows home owners over the age of 60 to convert part of the value of their property into cash using the property as security for the loan. The owner remains the legitimate owner and retains the right to live in the property. The reverse mortgage represents an alternative to selling the property. At the time of signing of the loan, a plan of repayments is established, just like any other form of personal loan.

Interests and related costs are refunded at the time of death of the borrower.

Should the owner decide not to repay the financed sum in advance, the heirs, who inherit the debt entered into by the deceased, have the following options:

  • Repay the debt to the bank and clear the mortgage from the
  • Selling the mortgaged property
  • Allow the lending bank to sell the property at market value according in order to repay the mortgage.

If the property is sold at market value, the heirs have the right to obtain the difference once the debt has been repaid. The bank cannot ask the heirs to repay the debt, in the case that  the bank fails to sell the property.

Another feature of the reverse mortgage regards interests, which can be refunded either at the time of expiry of the loan or at fixed deadlines. If the “refund upon expiry” formula is chosen, no sum is due to the bank during the loan. In this case, there is no insolvency regarding the financing.

The sum granted to the borrower is determined by:

  • the borrower’s age – the older the borrower is, the higher the percentage of equity release that will be granted
  • the value of the property used to secure the loan

If you wish more information on this topic, please contact us.

Rent-Free Property Agreement: an Overview

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According to Italian law, a rent-free property agreement is applicable where a party lends an item they own to a borrower in order that the borrower may use the item for a given period of time or for a specific reason. The borrower then has the obligation to return the item to the lender at the end of the agreed period of use. As its name implies, a rent-free agreement is entered into for purposes other than financial gain. rent-free property agreement

The most common examples of rent-free property agreement pertain to a parent allowing a child to live rent-free in a property.

Interestingly, according to the Italian law, a rent-free property agreement is not restricted to housing. All sorts of items can be loaned rent-free to a third party. This might be a car or gardening equipment. In general, it is not necessary for the agreement between the parties to be in writing, an oral agreement is considered legally valid.

However, as far as homes or properties are concerned, a rent-free property agreement must be registered with the local Agenzia delle Entrate.

Once a rent-free tenancy agreement is registered, the 2016 Law of Stability has introduced a novelty with regarding tax: it is possible to benefit from a 50% discount on IMU and TASI so long as the following conditions are met:

  • The property must be considered as the main residence of the occupier benefitting from the rent-free agreement.
  • There must be first degree kinship relationship between the parties of the contract (typically parents and children)
  • The property owner must own only one other house
  • The two properties in question must be located in the same Municipality

For more information on rent-free agreements, please feel free to contact us.

Unclaimed Italian Properties: Overview

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What does ‘Unclaimed Italian Properties’ mean? Between 1861 and 1985 over 29 million Italians emigrated to other countries. About 18 million permanently settled abroad, predominantly in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Argentina. In 2011, there were 4,115,235 Italian citizens living outside Italy and several tens of millions of descendants of Italians, who emigrated in the last two centuries.Unclaimed Italian Properties

When Italian emigrants went abroad, they often left property and land in Italy. It is a myth that this property was confiscated by the Italian State. The reality is that the property is still here in Italy, unclaimed, and the original owners, deceased many years ago, are still on the title deeds. There are many thousands of these properties and parcels of land across Italy and in many cases the descendants of emigrants living outside Italy could still claim them. Over the years, I have been contacted for help and advice by many descendants of Italian emigrants who want to find their ancestors’ property in Italy. In some cases, people come to me after spending considerable time, and substantial amounts of money. Read more

Prevention Is Better Than Cure… Seek Legal Experts

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Prevention is always better than cure, therefore, always seek legal experts.

You’ve seen a few Italian properties online that you really like the look of. You want to book flights to Italy, organise rental car and accommodation to see the properties for yourself. But how do you know if the properties you’ve set your heart on seeing are legally safe and structurally sound? Before being advertised with a real estate agent, was a survey conducted? Have the legalities been checked?

Be sure to seek legal experts, before purchasing a property.

seek legal experts 

We can provide an independent and professional pre-purchase property background check service. That way, you can avoid problems such as buying a property with shared title deeds, other legal and financial complications, structural or planning permission issues. Knowing exactly where you stand before you view properties, you increase your chance of finding the right property first time and avoiding wasted trips and the expense of repeat visits and false starts.

We also provide a pre-sales property background check service for owners preparing to put Italian property on the real estate market. Having all the legal and structural details as part of your property sales package offers vendors a competitive advantage when promoting property for sale.

Please contact us if you would like assistance.

Italian Property Background Check

Our independent professional legal and structural advice will save you time and money before you buy or sell a property in Italy.

Ask about our pre-purchase and pre-sale services

Certificate of Habitability

Title Deeds / Legal Ownership

Bad debts

Land Registry

Planning Permission

Structural Survey

Geological Survey

Adverse Possession