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The Guardian

Court in Italy rules in favour of children who do not want to see grandparents

By Angela Giuffrida in Rome,

People walking in front of the Supreme Court of Cassation Rome Photograph: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Italy’s top court has ruled that children are under no obligation to see their grandparents if they do not wish to do so.

The ruling from the supreme court of cassation relates to an appeal by the parents of two children against the decision of a lower court which had forced the youngsters to spend time with their paternal grandparents.

The years-long case was triggered by the grandparents and a paternal uncle, who took action at the juvenile court in Milan, complaining that they were unable to meet the children “due to the obstacles established by the parents”, with whom they were embroiled in a family conflict.

The grandparents won in both the juvenile court and the Milan court of appeal, which in 2019 ordered meetings between them and the children in the presence of a social worker, while warning the parents of the potential psychological damage to the children from depriving them from seeing their relatives.

The parents argued that the meetings were not appreciated by the children owing to the ongoing family tensions and so appealed to the supreme court to have the decision overturned.

In its ruling, the supreme court said that while there is “no doubt” that the two children would “benefit from a bond with the articulated line of generations”, the pair had expressed opposition to the relationship and could not be forced to see their “ascendants”, especially in an environment of conflict.

Therefore, the court ruled that the interests of the children must prevail over those of the grandparents and that “an unwelcome and unwanted relationship” cannot be imposed, even more so if the children are “capable of discernment” and have reached the age of 12.

Under a family law introduced in Italy in 2006, a child has the right to maintain a significant relationship with their grandparents, even if their parents separate. Grandparents also have the right to ask a court to establish whether a parent’s decision to deny them access to their grandchildren is damaging to the child’s wellbeing and therefore illegal.

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