Violent and unfaithful husband in a case of separation in Italy

Brief Comment on the sentence of the Court of Civil Cassation, section I, sentence n.23236, 14th of October 2013.

In Italy, it is typically said that when a couple splits up, both parties are at fault.

However when a judge has to rule on a cause of separation, they have to weight up the behaviour of the two spouses and make a comparative evaluation.

What happens, then, if the husband behaved violently towards his wife and was unfaithful, and to gain revenge the wife discredited the father causing the children to nurture feelings of hatred towards him?

According to the Court of Cassation (sentence 14th of October 2013, n.23236), it is a legitimate decision to blame the separation on the violent and unfaithful husband and not on the wife, who by adopting a hostile and revengeful behaviour delegitimises him in front of the child, in order to bring about feelings of hatred towards him.

Even if both spouses are guilty of the disqualifying behaviour, the separation is to be blamed solely on the husband, because he acted aggressively and violently against both his children and wife, against whom no voluntary breach of marital duties can be ascribed, and because he had been having an extramarital relationship with another woman for ten years before the separation, reason that caused the end of marriage.

Comparing the two behaviours made the Court opt for an unfavourable motivated evaluation at the expenses of the husband.

In particular, a spouse’s unilateral and extremely stiff behaviour intended to delegitimise the other spouse in front of the children and to nurture a feeling of hatred towards the other spouse, if prolonged for a long time during marriage, must be considered as a breach of duties towards both children (cf. art.147, Italian Civil Code) and the other spouse.