Civil partnerships (Unioni Civili ) were formally recognised and regulated in Italy with Law No. 76 of 2016, following two rulings of the Italian Constitutional Court (No. 138/2010 and No. 170/2014) and a Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (2015). However, it took several months before this legislation was fully implemented with three Decrees, in January 2017.

The same legislation has also regulated cohabitation (Convivenze di fatto) between persons of the same or different sex.

Both relationships were not previously regulated / had no specific financial consequences under earlier Italian law.

Unioni Civili (Civil Partnerships) – Under the new legislation on civil partnership (Unioni Civili) most of the rights and obligations arising from marriage and divorce will also apply to the union of persons of age, of the same sex.

Although marriage and civil partnerships are still considered two separate, different legal institutions, their practical financial consequences appear to be very similar. With Unione Civile, both partners acquire the same rights to financial support and are subject to the same obligations.

On the registration of Unione Civile the partners may elect to acquire and to use the same surname, being the surname of one of the two partners, or to add the surname of the other partner to their own.

Unless the partners otherwise direct at the time of registration, the Comunione dei beni regime will apply to any subsequent property acquisition by either partner. This will effectively mean that any property or asset acquired by one of the partners will be held on behalf of both partners jointly, in equal shares, unless at the time of the registration of the Unione Civile the partners elected for the Separazione dei beni regime. If this was the case, then each party would continue to hold his / her assets separately from the other partner. So, it will be particularly important to consider the relationship between the partners when buying or selling a property, opening a bank account, making a Will or setting up a company / commercial enterprise in Italy.

In case of death of one of the partners, the survivor, acquires succession rights equivalent to the rights of a surviving spouse.

In practice the surviving partner will be entitled to a minimum share (usually 50%) of the deceased partner`s Estate (Successione necessaria) as

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stated in the Civil Code for surviving spouses, and a right to continue to live in the family home (Diritto di abitazione vitalizio) and to use any furniture or chattels in it. The surviving partner will also be entitled to the pension of the Deceased (Reversibilita`) or other, similar rights.

The recent implementing legislation expressly provides that special tax regulations, benefits and rebates applicable to married taxpayers will also apply to partners in a Unione Civile .

Legislation applicable to family enterprises (Imprese familiari) and the right to be supported by the partner formally in charge of the enterprise will apply to the partners in Unione Civile, whenever one of the partners works full time for the other.

Where the Unione Civile is terminated (Scioglimento), the financially weaker partner may be entitled to be supported by the other, as in divorce of married couples. Thus, with limited exceptions Unione Civile creates the same legal rights and financial obligations as marriage.

Detailed provisions have been introduced to deal with the international element. Where Italian nationals enter into a formal relationship equivalent to “Unione Civile” abroad, or where foreigners enter into a Unione Civile in Italy, specific rules will apply to determine the applicable law.

Registered cohabitation (Convivenza di fatto) – where two persons (either of the same sex or different sex) live together, under the new legislation it is now possible to formalise the relationship with a Cohabitation contract (Contratto di convivenza).

Under this legislation, the cohabitees can stipulate their legal commitments to each other and for their cohabitation, their respective rights and contributions to their life together.

This new legislation also introduces very limited rights for cohabitees.

If one of them is taken ill, the other cohabitee will have express rights to visit the sick partner in hospital, and will have formal access to personal medical information on the other. In case of death of one of the cohabitees, the other will be entitled to use the family home for up to five years if young children are involved. There will be an entitlement to share the profit and to be maintained, where one of the cohabitees works in the enterprise (Impresa familiare) of the other.

Finally, parties will still be entitled to cohabitate informally, without the benefit of this legislation, if they wish.

Where no steps are taken to regulate their relationship with a Contratto di Convienza, cohabitation will continue to be amost ignored by the law in Italy.

Dr Claudio Del Giudice, Copyrights reserved.