The Changing Concept of ‘Family’ and Challenges for Domestic Family Law
Edited by Jens M. Scherpe
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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