The government has begun the process of centralising divorce applications at fewer than 20 locations across England and Wales.

Each centre will act as the single point of entry for all divorce and financial remedy applications, with hearings taking place at more local venues.

The need for fewer divorce courts was highlighted by an extraordinary case in September, where Sir James Munby, president of the family division, set aside a total of 180 divorce petitions from Italian couples. They had been issued fraudulently from Italy in 137 different county courts across England and Wales.

A spokeswoman for HMCTS said divorce centres in the north east are confirmed as Doncaster (south Yorkshire and Humber), Durham (Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland) and Bradford (north and west Yorkshire)

These three divorce centres are now operational and are the single points of entry for all divorce and financial remedy applications in those areas. Harrogate is currently operating as a fourth centre prior to its work being moved to Bradford in January 2015.

The north-west centres are expect to be decided by the start of next week.

Each region will be issuing local communications to ensure court users know where to send their divorce applications.

All of the remaining HMCTS regions will be centralising the administrative handling of divorce work throughout 2015. It is anticipated that divorce centres will be fully operational in all regions by December 2015.

Munby said in September that plans to centralise the handling of divorce petitions at fewer than 20 courts should help to combat fraud, but he warned this alone would ‘probably not be enough’ to prevent it completely.

The courts service said the creation of single points of entry will bring it in line with the single family court which was created last year.

It has also pledged that creating centres of staff and legal adviser expertise will leas to an improved service and help to identify fraud. Using legal advisers for decree nisi applications should also release time for district judges to spend on other high-priority family work.