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Italy: Implementation of Law Amending Status of Natural Children

(Jan. 30, 2014) Legislative Decree 154 of December 28, 2013 (hereinafter L.D. 154)is scheduled to enter into effect on February 7, 2014, and amends several provisions of the Italian Civil Code concerning filiation. (Decreto Legislativo 28 dicembre 2013, n. 154, NORMATTIVA; Civil Code (Oct. 21, 2013), ALTALEX [note that this version does not contain the amendments introduced by L.D. 154]. The overall purpose of the Legislative Decree is to eliminate all language in the Civil Code, the Criminal Code, the Code of Civil and Criminal Procedure, and other specific legislation distinguishing between legitimate and natural children, in accordance with Law 219 of December 10, 2012 (LEGGE 10 dicembre 2012, n. 219, NORMATTIVA).

In accordance with Law 219, L.D. 154 has changed the legal status of children born out of wedlock (“natural” children). Law 219 gave the Italian government the broad power to issue – within 12 months from the date of its entry into effect – legislative decrees revising existing legislation in the area of filiation, to make that legislation congruent with the new legal regime eliminating all differences between legitimate, natural, and adoptive children.(Law 219, art. 2.) Consequently, L.D. 154 introduced a number of updates of and amendments to existing legislation, including replacing the term formerly used to describe parental rights, potesta, with “parental responsibility,” responsabilita’ genitoriale (L.D. 154, art. 6, amending Civil Code, art. 165.)

Among the updates introduced by L.D. 154 pursuant to the 2012 Law are:

  • A marriage that has been declared invalid will have the same effects as a valid marriage with respect to any children. Previously the Civil Code did not include children not considered legitimate. (L.D. 154, art. 2, amending Civil Code, art. 128.).
  • Whoever files an action to sever filiation established merely by the fact that the parents were married must demonstrate that there is no parent-child relationship between the child and the alleged father. The sole declaration of a mother is not sufficient to deny fatherhood of a child. (L.D. 154, art. 17, amending Civil Code, art. 243-bis.) The right to initiate an action to request review of the status of a child belongs to the child, and is not subject to the statute of limitations. (L.D. 154, art. 21, amending Civil Code, art. 249.)