Family reunification and polygamy

The Italian Supreme Court has recently dealt with a very delicate issue in which it has had to balance the right of a family to be re-united, on the one hand, and the public policy need to enforce the ban on polygamy in Italy, on the other hand.

The case at hand concerned the request of a son to be reunited with his mother. Even though it seemed, at first glance, to be relatively easy to decide, it revolved, however, around the fact that the child’s father had already asked to be reunited with another wife coming from a country where polygamy was permitted.

Emphasis was placed, in the legal arguments submitted by parties, upon the fact that the request had been made by the son to be reunited with his mother and not by the father.

The Supreme Court held, however, that, as far as family reunification of a foreign citizen is concerned, the prohibition set forth in article 29, paragraph 1 ter of Legislative Decree No. 286 of 1998 – which deals with applications made in relation to the spouse of a foreign national who is already lawfully residing with another spouse in Italy – apply to the case at hand, regardless of who makes the application for family reunification. The purpose of the aforementioned provision of law is to avoid polygamous family relationships being established in Italy in violation of Italian public policy and of the Italian Constitution.

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