European Family Law Volume II
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European Family Law Volume II

The Changing Concept of ‘Family’ and Challenges for Domestic Family Law

Edited by Jens M. Scherpe

This four-volume set maps the emerging European family law. It is intended to serve as a resource for anyone interested in this area of law, as well as a basis for teaching on comparative and international family law courses. The first volume examines the impact of institutions and organisations on European family law. While there is no European body that could actually legislate definitively on family law, there are some institutions that have a direct impact on European family law, while the impact of others is more indirect. In the second volume the changing concept of ‘family’ and challenges for domestic family law are analysed in 21 different jurisdictions, in 16 chapters. All contributions look at ‘horizontal’ family law (the law concerning the relationships between adults), ‘vertical’ family law (the law concerning the relationships of adults and children) as well an ‘individual’ family law (the law on names and gender identity). In the third volume the contributions take a comparative view on specific issues from a European perspective. The fourth volume, which works as a stand-alone monograph, draws on all of the previous chapters, and discusses the present and future of European family law. It establishes areas where ‘institutional’ European family law exists – in the sense that there are binding legal rules for all European jurisdictions – for example, as a result of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. It also identifies areas where, as a result of common legal and social developments for ‘horizontal’, ‘vertical’ and ‘individual’ family law, an ‘organic’ European family law is emerging and suggests how family laws in Europe are going to develop in the future.
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Chapter 8: The changing concept of ‘family’ and challenges for family law in Italy


In the 20th century, family law underwent a rather radical evolution in the Italian legal system as well as in the rest of Europe. The most relevant features of this evolution can be summarised as follows. The view of marriage as a mainly patrimonially relevant agreement between two family groups was regarded as antiquated. Moreover, the view of the family as the principal economic unit of society came to be seen as outmoded. The predominant archetype of the family has given way to a family exclusively composed of the spouses and their children. The principle of parental authority within the family has declined in practice. Thanks to the influence of the Italian Constitution, among other things, the principle of equality between spouses has been established; as a consequence, violence within the family is now no longer tolerated and the principle of immunity (of the husband and father) has been abolished. Marriage is no longer considered to be indissoluble, and a trend towards ever more simplified forms of consensual dissolution of marriage can be observed. The changes described above were related to families in the traditional sense, and have altered the structure of the family profoundly. However, the traditional concept of family has been supplemented by at least two other forms of shared life: unmarried partnerships (that is, cohabitation or de facto relationships) between persons of the opposite sex, and life partnership between persons of the same sex.

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