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Italian designs have once more been focused on the shores of our beloved Britannia, but the legions (well, 180 thus far!), have been soundly routed by surprisingly sharp eyes at the family court offices in our mighty capital.

It appears that we are an attractive destination for Italians when amore is no more, given that spouses in Italy are obliged to remain legally shackled to each other for a minimum three year separation period before being permitted to commence divorce proceedings. This is in stark contrast to the legal requirements of England and Wales which require no separation period at all prior to the commencement of proceedings.

(The only proviso in terms of timescale in the English system is that the parties have been married for at least a one year period before a divorce may be issued.)

The restraints at home meant that 180 Italian couples itching to move on with new conquests created a lucrative market for some legal dabbling. In particular, an Italian firm began to issue divorce proceedings on their behalf in and around London – falsely stating that at least one of the spouses lived in England.

The concept of ‘domicile’, alongside some tinkering by Brussels II, is important here given that it prescribes which country has the appropriate legal jurisdiction to grant a divorce in any given case. For these Italians, the boot simply didn’t fit. British ex-pats who have elected to live in warmer climes should take note too.

So what happened to the Italian contingent? Well, suspicions were aroused when it was noticed that the same address kept cropping up and it was then established that none of those spouses had been resident at the London address stated. Their petitions for divorce were therefore false, and the decrees of divorce granted to them were nullified – therefore they all remain legally married to their ‘ex’. Ah, delicato. Now that is going to cause a whole fleet of problems for those of them who have gone on to ‘marry’ their new love and a few who have also had children with their new ‘spouses’ – all of these are void marriages.

Take comfort then, for whilst Rome may be the Eternal City, London clearly remains the divorce capital albeit spousal despatch is now by the pen as opposed to the sword … which perhaps doesn’t please everyone quite as much!!

For more information regarding this post or any other family law situations, please contact Nicola Fraser of our Family & Matrimonial Team on 0161 930 5151