180 divorces granted to Italian couples exposed as being fraudulent and at risk of being rescinded by the Family Division of the High Court.
Britain's top family judge has been asked to cancel 180 divorces after being told the UK courts have been exploited in a massive "fraud" by Italians seeking a quick end to their marriages.
In an ongoing hearing pending before the High Court, watched closely by a representative of the Italian government, Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, heard that up to 180 Italian Couples lied in the petition by faking residency in order to avoid expensive divorce in Italy and the lengthy Italian divorce process. Simon Murray, for the Queen's Proctor – the barrister who represents the Crown – has obtained permission to intervene and submitted that approximately 180 petitions for divorce, involving Italian residents, had been advanced on a false basis as the residence requirements were not met in any of the said 180 petitions and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings. In an unprecedented move, on 30 October 2013 the Court was asked to overturn the decrees nisi and decrees absolute which have been granted in all 180 cases and to dismiss each of the petitions.
Divorce was only introduced in Italy in 1970 and Italian couples face a mandatory three-year period of legal judicial separation before being able to apply for divorce. In most cases, the entire divorce process could take up to 5 years as a result of the complexity of Italian bureaucracy and renowned slowness of the Italian judicial system.
The recent most notable case of Italian divorce was Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime Minister, who separated from his then wife Veronica Lario in 2009 and has only been able to apply for divorce few months ago.
"As a result of Italian archaic legislation on the dissolution of matrimonial affairs – says Gabriele Giambrone, Senior Partner of Giambrone Law – over the recent years more and more Italians have recently embarked in forum shopping around EU member states, mainly England and Rumania, by circumventing these Italian mandatory rules and using European Union legislation which recognizes divorces granted in any EU member state. The consequences for the individuals implicated in this fraudulent scheme may be far reaching: – adds Giambrone- Divorces obtained illegally or fraudulently overseas will not be recognised in Italy and, if any of the 180 couples has remarried in Italy in the meantime, they are at risk of being deemed bigamist in law, which is considered to be an additional criminal offence so they are also at risk of criminal prosecution in Italy"
The English Courts have no jurisdiction to consider divorce applications by parties who are both resident abroad and, in the case of cross-border divorces, under English law a person seeking a divorce in England has to prove to have been habitually resident in England for a period of at least six months immediately before issuing a petition of divorce, or that the respondent was habitually resident within the jurisdiction
The divorce fraud was allegedly organised by a divorce agency charging up to €4,000 for a quick divorce, with a Post Office box in Maidenhead being used to establish residency by one of the divorcing parties.
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