Australian National News

Father to pay 'moral damages'

By Natasha Bita, Florence
The Australian
08jun02

HE told his wife he yearned for a family, but after she fell pregnant he left her as she was due to give birth.

Now a trio of female judges in Milan has exacted "women's revenge" and ordered the absconding husband to pay his ex-wife compensation for "psychological and emotional damage".

The award, handed down in the Civil Tribunal of Milan this week, made Italian legal history by requiring the offending parties in divorces to pay "moral damages" if their behaviour was deemed particularly unpleasant.

The judges ordered the husband to pay $10,000 compensation, on top of his family maintenance payments, for abandoning his wife as she was about to give birth to their first child.

They said the man had ended his marriage in a "contemptuous manner, with open and theatrical abandon".

"He left his wife in a condition of particular fragility and need of assistance and moral and emotional support, due to her state of pregnancy," the judges said.

"What's more, both partners had wanted and sought the child."

The woman plunged into "a state of worry and anxiety, and a sense of abandonment".

"The penalty is a modest sum," the judges wrote, "but what counts is the principle we have tried to set."

The landmark decision is a turnaround for the Italian court system, which has a reputation for misogyny.

Italy's Supreme Court last year ruled a pensioner responsible for the break-up of her marriage because she "neglected the cleaning", and awarded the house to her husband. The court also sparked uproar when it ruled that men who pat a woman's bottom are not guilty of sexual harassment if the incident is isolated and carries no sexual connotations.

The court earlier cleared a man of rape on the grounds his accuser wore such tight jeans he could only have removed them with her consent.

It is usually women who end a marriage in Italy, where the number of divorces and separations has tripled to 98,000 a year in the past 20 years.

© The Australian