Sunday, May 16, 2010

Italy Embraces Divorce with a Fair!

From the New York Times:

The exhibitors at what was billed as Italy’s first divorce trade fair, held here over the weekend, were a predictable mishmash of lawyers, real estate agents, divorce planners, paternity testing centers and dating agencies.

No less predictable was the media scrum, come to record the latest seismic transformation of Italian society, a mostly Roman Catholic nation traditionally centered on the family.

That stereotype is fading fast.

In 2007, according to the most recent statistics available, there were more than 81,000 separations and 50,000 divorces among Italy’s population of 59 million. Thirty years ago, divorces did not break the 12,000 mark.

Lifelong marriages and close-knit family “values are great, but women have begun to live a different reality,” said Lorenza Lucianer, a twice-separated office worker who came to the fair with two friends. “We’ve turned into America. Everyone is on their second marriage. It happened later here, but it happened.”

Yet it is not quite like America.

For antsy Italian singles-in-waiting, American divorce laws (at least of the cinematic variety, where marriages are dissolved in the time it takes for ink to dry) are the stuff that dreams are made of. In Italy, divorces take around five years from the first separation hearing, said Claudio De Filippi, a lawyer who had a booth at the fair.

His firm, he said, was challenging Italy’s divorce laws at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, because in most European countries a divorce takes around one year. “But, of course, we have the Vatican here,” he said. “Divorce has tended to be viewed as an extreme measure.”

Italy ratified divorce only in 1974 in a referendum, and critics complain that Italian legislators have not kept up with changing times.

The growing divorce rate is what led Milena Stojkovic two years ago to open what she claims to be Italy’s first divorce planning agency, Ciao Amore. (“Ciao means both hello and goodbye in Italian,” she said, adding that she “wanted to give the idea of ‘I never want to see you again,’ and ‘this isn’t necessarily a goodbye.’ ”) With offices in Rome and Trieste, a branch is expected to open in Milan soon, she said. “Divorce planning was a very new concept in Italy,” she said, but the business has been satisfying.

Read more here.

AC

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