Sir James Munby, president of the family division, was in the High Court yesterday and asked to annul 180 ‘quick divorces’ that had been granted to couples from Italy, after it became apparent that the couples had bogusly assumed British residence to take advantage of the UK divorce system.
The intention was to circumvent the lengthy and often costly divorce process in Italy.
Couples going through a divorce in Italy have a mandatory three year period before they can legally be separated, so many choose to take advantage of European legislation which recognises divorces granted in any EU member state, in cases where couples obtain foreign residency for a certain period.
The scam was spotted when officials realised that in 179 of the cases one of the parties had given the same UK address, which was a post box address.
The UK courts have no power to consider a divorce petition by parties who are both resident abroad. However, if a couple have lived in England or Wales for a period of one year or more, they are entitled to apply for a divorce here.
It is thought that some of the Italian couples paid around €4000 to a fraudster to apply for their divorces.
The case is continuing as the Queen’s Proctor (the lawyer who represents the Crown if intervention is needed in divorce cases) is asking the Court to overturn the decrees that have been granted in all 180 cases.