Divorce is the complete and total dissolution of a marriage that existed between the spouses. Therefore once it is granted the couple is no longer deemed to be married in the eyes of the law and thus is able to remarry. Divorce in Malta has always been a very vastly debated topic mostly because of the Catholic Church’s influences on the Maltese islands and its inhabitant’s beliefs.
The church is very much against divorce and because of this until recently it was not possible to obtain a divorce in Malta. Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando in July 2010 presented the historic private member’s bill for the introduction of the basic right of divorce. After a referendum in May 2011 the Divorce law became legal giving people a new opportunity of life in the new relationships they have built, allowing them to take the responsible way forward to regularize their position if they wish to do so.
The process to get divorced in Malta and the way things will proceed differs depending on whether the couple is legally separated or not or whether separation proceedings are already underway. In both cases the couple must either be legally separated or living apart for four years and over. When the couple is not yet legally separated then during the proceedings the court may issue orders related to who shall reside in the matrimonial home during the proceedings and also on maintenance to ensure that during the proceedings the spouse and children are accommodated to. Before divorce in Malta is granted the court will direct the couple to appear in front of a mediator in an attempt of reconciliation. When there are pending separation proceedings between the spouses they may either separately or jointly make recourse to the court so that the demand of separation be instead considered as a demand for a pronouncement of divorce. After making such a claim the court will decide weather the couple satisfies the required conditions stipulated to getting divorced. Sultana Legal offers professional legal advice on both situations.
In approximately a year from the introduction of Divorce in Malta, there were in total circa 512 applications for divorce in Malta of which only 14 were from Gozo. 247 couples have been granted divorce so far since the introduction of this civil right in a period of circa one year. According to the statistics provided by the Justice Ministry, there were 94 requests from couples who made a joint bid after being granted legal separation. Another 350 requests were made from either the husband or wife being couples who were already legally separated; while a further 38 requests were made from couples who are still in the process of separating.
So far the feared scenarios predicted by this opposing this civil right have not come true and it is unlikely that this will happen in the future. The Maltese divorce legislation so far seems to be of use for those couples who have been separated for long and now really want to move on with their lives.