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High Court Judge overturns 180 fraudulent divorces

Source Financial Times 1st October 2014

The most senior family Judge in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, has overturned 180 divorce cases obtained by Italians in what he called a “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on an almost industrial scale.”

It seems that Italians who wanted to get divorced decided that they had a better chance of more easily obtaining a divorce in English Courts on the basis they could prove they were resident here. The Italian divorce process requires a couple to undergo a three year legal separation.

An eagle eyed member of staff at Burnley Court realised that the same address was being used for people involved in Italian divorces and this lead to the revelation that 179 petitioners had used the same address in Maidenhead Berkshire. This turned out to be a mailbox on commercial premises. Sir James commented:-

“Given the dimensions of the mailbox, it is clear that not even a single individual, however small, could possibly reside in it.”

The Court found that the English Court had been deceived into believing it had jurisdiction. The 180 cases, including 71 divorce petitions at an early stage and 18 cases where Decree Nisi (a provisional order that does not terminate the marriage) had been granted. There were 91 cases where a Decree Absolute had been granted bringing a marriage to an end. The Court ruled that in cases where a Decree Nisi or a Decree Absolute had been granted, these orders must be “set aside as being void for fraud.”