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Joint Custody in the Italian Courts

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Abstract

This paper studies the impact of the introduction of joint custody in Italy (Law 54/2006) on judiciary outcomes. As to the formal (legal) assignment of joint custody, the reform envisaged very little judge discretion. With reference to the substance of the custody (the amount of time each parent spends with the child and the money involved in post-dissolution arrangements), the law established new principles while leaving plenty of implementation power to the judges. Our results – based on court data that covers the universe of separations from 2000 to 2010 – document that the law was only cosmetically applied by the judges. Compared to the prereform regime, the share of sole legal custody assignments to the mother drastically decreased. However, court implementation washed out the new principles: the provisions of the law related to the financial postseparation arrangements remained unapplied. This suggests that the main innovative aspect of the law – the possibility for a child to spend an adequate amount of time with both parents – was also left unchanged with respect to the previous regime of sole maternal custody. As joint effect of the introduction of the law and the little degree to which the new principles have been translated into actual verdicts, there was a surge in litigiousness among separating spouses and judicial inefficiency. Moreover, the incentives for a female partner to apply for a separation raised. The paper discusses a possible rationale for the findings and some related policy remedies. As for the former, the evidence we present can be explained by the adoption of genderbiased judiciary practices. As for the latter, our results suggest that a restatement of the law, to define a narrowed grid of prescriptions that constrain judge discretion, could be an effective corrective action.

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  • Guido de Blasio & Daniela Vuri, 2013. "Joint Custody in the Italian Courts," CEIS Research Paper 284, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 03 Jul 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:rtv:ceisrp:284
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Böheim, René & Francesconi, Marco & Halla, Martin, 2012. "Does Custody Law Affect Family Behavior In and Out of Marriage?," IZA Discussion Papers 7064, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Brandeanna Allen & John Nunley & Alan Seals, 2011. "The Effect of Joint-Child-Custody Legislation on the Child-Support Receipt of Single Mothers," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 124-139, March.
    3. Ichino, Andrea & Polo, Michele & Rettore, Enrico, 2003. "Are judges biased by labor market conditions?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(5), pages 913-944, October.
    4. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "Judicial Fact Discretion," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 1-35, January.
    5. Christine Atteneder & Martin Halla, 2006. "Bargaining at divorce: The allocation of custody," Economics working papers 2006-18, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria, revised Jan 2007.
    6. Nunley, John M. & Seals Jr., Richard Alan, 2011. "Child-custody reform, marital investment in children, and the labor supply of married mothers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 14-24, January.
    7. Martin Halla, 2013. "The Effect Of Joint Custody On Family Outcomes," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 278-315, April.
    8. Weiss, Yoram & Willis, Robert J, 1985. "Children as Collective Goods and Divorce Settlements," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(3), pages 268-292, July.
    9. Magda Bianco & Silvia Giacomelli & Cristina Giorgiantonio & Giuliana Palumbo & Bruna Szego, 2007. "La durata (eccessiva) dei procedimenti civili in Italia: offerta, domanda o rito?," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, vol. 97(5), pages 3-54, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Halla, 2015. "Do joint custody laws improve family well-being?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 147-147, May.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    joint custody; separation; judiciary outcomes; difference-in-differences; Italy;

    JEL classification:

    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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