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Malta legalises Divorce - Marwa Hadi discusses

A historic law has been passed in Malta legalising divorce after MPs overwhelmingly voted to permit this. It is expected to take effect in October, once this has been signed by Malta’s President.

95% of the population is Roman Catholic and divorce was previously not permitted on the basis that it was believed it would weaken and encourage the breakdown of family units in the country.

As it currently stands, Maltese nationals whose marriages have broken down could only apply for a legal separation or seek a church annulment. As these processes could sometimes take up to a decade to go through, many couples resorted to travelling abroad to obtain their divorce.

It is clear therefore that the fact divorce was previously unobtainable did not ensure marriages did not break down. If the marriage had broken down, it simply made things harder for the couple in terms of legalising their separation and enabling them to move on. The law itself did not mean that couples would always stay together.

As family law solicitors in England, it is difficult to imagine a country where divorce is not legal. We can only envisage the difficulty this may have caused. There were likely to be situations where an individual had children with their partner who they may have been living with for a number of years but would be denied the right to marry as they were still married.

It will be interesting to see how this law develops. The law should come into effect in October. In terms of legislation, they may effectively be starting from scratch. On what basis will they allow a divorce? How long will the process take? How will the financial matters be dealt with?

This has certainly been revolutionary for Malta, which is the last country in the EU to recognise divorce. It will no doubt only be the first step as couples, the legislature and lawyers get to grips with how this will now work in practice and they will need to do so quickly given the anticipated surge in divorce applications which will be made from October.

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