Blood relations and relations by marriage

What it is

Blood relationship is the tie that exists between individuals who are descended from the same person.

Legally, we define:

  • straight line relationship: the one between people who descend from one another (e.g. father and son);
  • relationship in the collateral line: that between people who, despite having a common ancestor, are not descended from one another (e.g. brothers and sisters).

This distinction is relevant to the calculation of the degree of the relationship itself. In particular:

  • in a straight line: the degree of relationship is the number of generations, not counting the older (e.g. father and son are first-degree relatives);
  • in a collateral line: the degree of relationship is the number of generations from a person to the common ancestor and from that ancestor the other person, not counting the common ancestor (e.g. brothers and sisters are second-degree relatives).

It is therefore useful to dispel the misconception that very often enters the common language: for example, so-called "first cousins" are actually fourth degree relatives.

The degree of relationship is important because, in general, the law does not recognise bonds of relationship beyond the sixth degree. This means, for example, that people bound together by a more distant relationship between them have no legitimate claim in each other's succession.

Thanks to the recent rules on recognition of natural children, our Civil Code expressly provides that:

  • blood relationship is the bond between persons who descend from a common forebear, whether the filiation occurred in wedlock or out of wedlock, or the child was adopted;
  • all children have the same legal status.

As a result, nowadays, there is no difference between children born in or out of wedlock, in either personal or property terms.

Relations by Marriage

This is the relationship between one spouse and the blood relations of the other.

As it is for blood relationships, for relations by marriage it is also possible to distinguish various lines and degrees. More precisely, in the line and degree that anybody is a relative of one of the spouses, he is a relative by marriage of the other spouse (e.g. son-in-law and mother-in-law are related to each other by marriage in a direct line in the first degree).

Consequently, this kind of relationship is, by definition, an institution linked to marriage: the recent reform in the area of filiation, therefore, has not in the least affected the relevant provisions.