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Open marriage comments mean wife loses right to spousal maintenance

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Italy's Supreme Court -- the Corte Suprema di Cassazione -- has ruled that a woman should be denied spousal support because she once discussed the possibility of having an open marriage with her husband.

Although the conversation occurred before the couple married and the idea was never put into practice, the husband cited his wife's "views on faithfulness" in his application to the Catholic Church for an annulment.

Apparently, during the discussion, she "theorised" that sexual fidelity was no longer a prerequisite for a successful marriage.

The wife pointed out that her husband had willingly tied the knot fully cognisant of her views on polyamory. But an ecclesiastical court in Modena dismissed her arguments and backed the husband.

The decision meant that the woman could no longer claim spousal support, so she appealed in the civil courts.

The Supreme Court also backed the husband: "We fully support the lower court's findings, even though there was no evidence of the woman frequenting other men."

The ruling has drawn stinging criticism from modernisers within the Italian legal system. The chairman of the Italian association of matrimonial lawyers, Gian Ettore Gassani said: "I find it shocking and very perplexing that the court should rule on what is a virtual betrayal when real betrayals frequently go unpunished".

He says the issuance of annulments has become a sore point for many family lawyers in Italy. They hit a peak of 8,000 in 2008, up 400% on a decade ago, thanks in no small part Gassani says to an increase in spurious claims such as "use of cannabis", "unwillingness to have sex", and "over-attachment to his mum".

"It has descended into anarchy as people realise that it could be quicker and cheaper to get an annulment through the church than a divorce through Italy's sluggish courts," he says.

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