Foreign Divorce Judgment

Although it is only recently that Malta has enacted its own divorce law, there was always the possibility for citizens to go abroad, either to another European Union Member State or even to a non-European Union Member State to obtain a judgment for divorce from such country.

The question that might crop up is whether a divorce judgment obtained outside Malta can then be registered in Malta and has full effect as if it were obtained in Malta. The answer to such issue is surely in the affirmative where the Maltese Laws are promulgated in such a way to register such divorce.

First and foremost, one has to see if the divorce judgment was obtained in a European Union Member State or in a non-European Union Member State because different laws will be applicable as according to the case.

When a divorce judgment is obtained from any other European Union Member State, the Brussels II Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, also referred to as the Brussels II bis or Brussels II A, shall apply which shall also override any law that is enacted in Malta on this issue. This Regulation has such a great influence on any European Union Member State that it imposes on the Member States an obligation to register such judgment regarding divorce without any special procedure and the civil-status of such person shall be updated accordingly within the least possible time.

On the other hand, when a person decides to obtain a divorce judgment from outside the European Union, the above mentioned EU Regulation cannot apply. Instead, the Laws of Malta are taken cognisance of to decide whether such judgment can be registered in Malta or otherwise.

Nonetheless, in both cases, the divorce judgment obtained shall be the final judgment with no right to appeal from this judgment to be able to be registered in Malta. Additionally, the procedure followed for such judgment for divorce to be registered in Malta is an analogous straightforward procedure in both cases where one only needs to file an application in the Family Court.

In both cases however, there might be situations where this divorce judgment may not be registered and hence, not recognised if such judgment falls under any of the provisions of the grounds for non-enforcement that are provided for by the Brussels II Regulation and by the Maltese laws accordingly. Nevertheless, such provisions are stringent in themselves.

This issue had greater importance before Malta enacted its own divorce law where nowadays, citizens living in Malta are given the opportunity to obtain a divorce judgment from Malta itself without the need to go abroad.