Divorce not a ‘set-up for life’, rules Italian court
Divorce should not be seen as a ‘set-up for life’, Italy’s supreme court has said, in a landmark ruling that strips divorced spouses of the automatic right to hefty maintenance payments.
Divorcees who have independent means or are capable of working will not automatically receive maintenance payments that in the past were assessed on the basis that ex-spouses have a right to retain the same ‘tenor of life,’ after divorce, the judges of the Court of Cassation said.
The ruling is expected to change how family law is interpreted in the country and could herald an end to massive divorce settlements such as the €1.4m a month maintenance cheque that media magnate Silvio Berlusconi’s second wife Veronica Lario obtained when they split up in 2009 amid the ‘bunga bunga’ sex party scandal.
The supreme court ruling was initiated by the case of American businesswoman Lisa Lowenstein and her ex-husband Vittorio Grilli, a former Italian minister of economy and finance, who had an acrimonious divorce in 2013. Mr Grilli (58) gave Ms Lowenstein a monthly maintenance payment of as much as €2m after they separated to maintain her lifestyle but legal wrangling continued over her attempts to get Mr Grilli to pay heavy debts she had run up.
Ms Lowenstein appealed to the Italian supreme court in 2014 in pursuit of a claim that she deserved to receive maintenance payments for life after the Milan Court of Appeal rejected her application on the grounds that her income tax returns were incomplete and that her ex husband’s income had ‘contracted’ in the meantime.
“This is the end of a nightmare,” Mr Grilli was quoted as telling friends after the ruling.
The Cassation Court’s judges said times have changed and Italians must “overcome the wealth-based conception of marriage understood as a ‘definitive set-up’”.
Spouses applying for maintenance will have to be means tested, taking into consideration whether they have a house and are capable of working.