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Romania Table of Contents


The Evolution of Family Law

Family law in socialist Romania was modeled after Soviet family legislation. From the outset, it sought to undermine the influence of religion on family life. Under the ancien régime, the church was the center of community life, and marriage, divorce, and recording of births were matters for religious authorities. Under communism these events became affairs of the state, and legislation designed to wipe out the accumulated traditions and ancient codes was enacted. The communist regime required marriage to be legalized in a civil ceremony at the local registry prior to, or preferably instead of, the customary church wedding. Overall, a more liberal legal atmosphere prevailed, granting women greater rights within the family. The predominance of the husband was reduced, and the wife was given equal control over children and property and was entitled to keep her maiden name. The divorce procedure was greatly facilitated. In fact, if both parties wanted a divorce, and there were no children involved, the dissolution of the marriage could be accomplished simply by sending a joint statement to the local registry office. In addition to the right to divorce with relative ease, abortion on demand was introduced in 1957.

Because of the more liberal procedures, the divorce rate grew dramatically, tripling by 1960, and the number of abortions also increased rapidly. Concern for population reproduction and future labor supplies prompted the state to revise the Romanian Family Code to foster more stable personal relationships and strengthen the family. At the end of 1966, abortion was virtually outlawed, and a new divorce decree made the dissolution of marriage exceedingly difficult.

As part of the program to increase birthrates, the legal age for marriage was lowered to fifteen years for women in 1984, and yet the rate of marriage remained quite steady--on average about 9 marriages per 1,000 people per year. The divorce rate remained well below 1 per 1,000 until 1974. A study published in 1988, however, showed that the divorce rate had risen steadily since 1974, although not to the pre-1966 level. It must be noted, however, that divorces were measured against the total population and not the total number of marriages, which disguised the rising rate. The primary causes of divorce were violence and alcoholism. The study concluded that marital instability was once again a growing problem.

Much family legislation concerned women in the workplace and was designed to increase the size of families. Provisions for pregnant women and working mothers were comprehensive and generous. Expectant and nursing mothers were not permitted to work under hazardous conditions, were exempt from overtime work, and after the sixth month of pregnancy and while nursing were exempt from night work--all with no reduction in salary. Nursing mothers were entitled to feeding breaks, which could total two hours per day-- also with no reduction in pay. In addition, women were allowed paid maternity leave of 112 days--52 days prior to and 60 days after delivery. They were also entitled to paid leave to care for sick children under three years of age. Without loss of benefits, mothers were permitted to take a leave of absence from work to raise a child to the age of six, or they could request half-time work.

Data as of July 1989