We have recently represented a client in the Italian courts, defending an action brought by her former husband to revoke her divorce maintenance order. The divorce took place in the UK courts, but both parties and their children now live in Italy.
We not only opposed the husband’s right to revoke the maintenance order at all, we also took issue with the way in which the husband introduced the claim in the Italian courts. According to the Regulation on the Recognition and Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (EU Regulation no. 4/2009) this should have been brought through the “Central Authorities” which are the government bodies set up to assist in cross-border legal actions brought by individuals in the EU.
The Court of Civitavecchia ruled in January 2018 that the husband did correctly bring the actions directly to the Italian court, although agreed with us that the maintenance order could not in this case be revoked.
On the legality of the application, the Court cited a 2017 judgement of the ECJ on this of 9th February 2017 n. 283/2016. This ruling was the result of a preliminary reference from the High Court in the UK in the case of MS v PS (2016) EWHC 88 (Fam).
This ECJ caselaw decided that ” a creditor who wishes to enforce a maintenance order in another member state may do so directly through the local courts and does not have to use the central authority“, giving reasons that the Maintenance Regulation should make maintenance orders easily and efficiently enforceable in Europe. Although we welcome the ECJ decision from the point of view of enforcement, we do not agree that it applies to our case which was for the amendment, or revocation of an existing order.