180 Italian couples in UK divorce fraud

By Lenore Rice

The most senior family court judge is being asked to annul 180 divorces involving Italian couples after it was uncovered that they had fraudulently asserted residency in the UK.

Decrees nisi and decrees absolute have already been granted in the 180 cases, and Simon Murray, for the Queen's Proctor, is now calling on those decrees to be annulled. The fraud was uncovered when it was noticed that in 179 of the cases the same home address in Maidenhead, Berkshire was used by the wife or husband to establish their residency in the UK. The address however is actually a post office box and not a residential property.

Divorcing couples in Italy must first wait out a 3 year legal separation period and thereafter engage in a lengthy and expensive legal divorce process. However, European legislation means a divorce in another member state would also be recognised, and many Italian couples are said to turn to Romania to fast-track their separation.

In the 180 divorces said to be involved in the residency fraud, the couples are expected to have paid 4,000 euros each. Only 2 of those couples have said that they would contest if their divorce was rescinded, with the remaining 178 seemingly conceding that they knowingly took part in the fraud.

Divorce tourism is very common and can be motivated by a number of factors. Like in these particular cases some people wish to use a faster and cheaper legal jurisdiction, and in other cases a party to the divorce may believe they will receive a more favourable divorce settlement in a particular country. The divorcing couple must however have ties to the country they file divorce in, with residency being the strongest indicator.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast by calling 0800 840 1363.