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What is alimony in the Italian Family Law system? Difference between ASSEGNO DI MANTENIMENTO and ALIMENTI

In Italy, the word “alimony” may be translated with two different words: “assegno di mantenimento” and “alimenti”.

These are two different concepts, which must be carefully taken into consideration.

  • The assegno di mantenimento must be paid to the economically more vulnerable spouse, in order to let them maintain a life-style, which resembles as much as possible the standard to which they were accustomed during marriage. It is not to be paid to the spouse, whose conduct was the cause of the separation;
  • Alimenti, instead, is due in any case to the spouse, who is not able to meet their primary needs, in order to guarantee a minimum liveable income.

In order to obtain the right to assegno di mantenimento, one of the spouses must have an income which fails to meet their needs, irrespective of the fact that their behaviour may or may have not been the reason for their separation.

It follows, that to obtain an “assegno di mantenimento” from the other spouse, it is not important if the spouse was or not the cause of the breaking up: it is enough, that the spouse cannot actually provide for their own upkeep.

In other words, if the break up was due to the behaviour of one of the spouses, the one who was the cause of the separation may, however, have the right to an “assegno di mantenimento”!

This is what the Court recently (sentence n.16957 of 3.07.13) decided over the case of a couple, in which the spouse whose behaviour led to separation was assigned the maintenance allowance.

The Court took into consideration the following circumstances:

  • The relevant difference of income between the two spouses;
  • The circumstances, for which the criminal precedents committed by spouse, were a significant limit to the chance of finding a suitable job.

In effect, in the case taken into account, the husband had a business as a freelancer and owned a firm already up and running, while the wife had only a middle school diploma and criminal precedents against real estate.

Despite the wife’s criminal record, which was the cause of the separation between the two spouses, she obtained the right to the maintenance allowance.


Differing from “alimenti”, “assegno di mantenimento” has the only requirement of the state of need of one of the two parties, regardless of the fact that one of the two parties may be the cause of the separation.