Historic ruling no. 17183/2020 of the Italian Supreme Court: adult children must find mandatory work after completion of their studies.
A recent ruling of the Italian Supreme Court no. 17183/2020 has radically changed the concept of the right to maintenance, especially for children of separated parents.
The judgment was issued in relation to an appeal of a decision made by the Court of Appeal in Florence on 29th March 2018, made by a mother on the revocation of maintenance paid by her ex-husband in favour of her son (33 years old in 2018), a music teacher who earned about 20,000 Euro a year.
The judge of the Court of First Instance held that as the son had two fixed-term contracts he was in fact unable to support himself and that the job that he has must be up to his professional level and offer him an appropriate placement in the social economic context adequate to his aspirations. Failing meeting this threshold, this maintenance of the child remains. The Court of Appeal in Florence held that the obligation must be related to the ability to maintain oneself.
The mother’s appeal was rejected by the judges of the Supreme Court. The reason provided was: ‘if there is a deliberately inconclusive or unregulated lifestyle. Or the inconclusive search for an indefinitely protracted job, the child will certainly not have demonstrated that he has the right to maintenance’.
The judges reiterated that it is the ‘child’s’ obligation to do everything to find a job in order to become autonomous, while waiting for a job more suited to his studies and his own inclinations. This is ‘because the maintenance allowance has an educational function and is not a life insurance that is often abused’. Childhood does not last forever and in light of this neither should maintenance of children by their parents.
Judgement no. 17183/2020 is ground-breaking because it confirms that a child who has completed their studies whether this be a diploma or university degree, has the duty to become economically independent from their parents, find a job and begin maintaining themselves. This decision has quashed the eternal submissions of the Italian youth that they are unable to find the job of their dreams and so are happy to resort to unemployment and demand continued maintenance from their parents. Ironically, these are the same parents who very often themselves had to adapt in finding any job to maintain the family.
The Supreme Court clarified that a parent who has paid the former spouse the maintenance allowance for children after they have achieved economic self-sufficiency has a right to a refund of the amount paid. The risk therefore is not only of adult children losing their father’s maintenance but also having to reimburse him for maintenance that was paid post completion of that adult child’s studies.
Facts of ruling no. 2338/2006:
It would be prudent to also consider a previous landmark case, Supreme Court ruling no. 2338/2006, which on the facts is similar to this year’s sentence and was used as a precedent.
The case that led the First Civil Section to order to stop maintenance concerns a Florentine couple who were separated for some time, Maria Luigia M and Bruno R. There were 3 children from the marriage: Davide, Silvio (both economically independent) and Irene, nearly 33 years old. In December 2001, the Court of Florence ordered that the ex-husband would only have to maintain his youngest child, albeit 33 years old who was still in university, by giving 200 Euros per month towards her maintenance. In April 2003, the Court of Appeal in Florence held that maintenance was no longer due for Irene and ordered that the ex-husband no longer pay a cent to his daughter and that she must become solely responsible for the lack of her economic self-sufficiency and allowed for Bruno R. to regain possession of the marital home that he owned.
Marina Luigia M turned to the Supreme Court to try to appeal the decision stating that it was wrong to believe that Irene should have accepted any type of job that was clearly not in line with her aspirations following many years of study, because Irene was only one step away from concluding her degree and that her daughter was suffering from depression.
The First Civil Section (sentence 2338/2006) rejected the appeal of Marina Luigia and upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal. The court held that considering Irene’s age, she must seek a job and begin to be economically self-sufficient. It is her lack of economic self-sufficiency and failure to complete her degree that would have caused her depression. The family house was passed back to Bruno R. As per Article 6 of the Divorce Law, the assignment of the family house cannot be prepared in order to meet the economic needs of the weaker spouse, as a guarantee for which the divorce allowance is intended. The court reiterated, ‘the contested decision, which ordered the cessation of the assignment of the marital home as a result of the adult daughter still living with her mother and lacking economic self-sufficiency is logical’.
Italian mentality has not changed over the centuries even though the times have. Children who get married often remain under the same roof as their parents. The market requires workers, while adult children continue to live with their parents and being maintained by them, this will only continue to have a detrimental effect on the Italian economy.
Statistics state that Italy is among the four EU nations with the highest rate of young adults (between 18 and 34 years old) who still live with their parents. 50% of adult children in this age bracket still live with their parents in Italy, whereas the European average is 28%. What is even more shocking is that more males (56%) who stay at home with their parents and remain attached to their mother’s aprons (Statistics from Il Corriere, 16th August 2020).
Perhaps we will see a change to these statistics following this recent case…