The Italian Civil Code, at Article 143-bis, rules that the wife adds her husband’s surname to her surname and keeps it during her widowhood, until she moves on to a new marriage.
When the spouses separate, the wife continues to use her husband’s surname because the marriage relationship has not yet completely ceased. It may happen, however, that the judge prohibits or authorizes the wife to do not use the surname because it may be detrimental.
In the event of a divorce, on the other hand, the wife automatically loses the use of her husband’s surname, as the marriage is definitively terminated. However, there is one exception.
In fact, Article 5 of the Divorce Law (no. 898/1970) provides that the wife may retain her husband’s surname even after the divorce if there are valid reasons, which the Court will assess. In particular, the surname can be kept when it exists:
- A worthy interest of the wife (e.g. for professional reasons); or
- A worthy interest of the children.
Recently, the Italian Supreme Court has confirmed this principle with judgement no. 3869/2019, specifying that the retaining of the husband’s surname is an exceptional measure and it can’t be granted for reasons of mere reputation.