Divorce is legalised in Malta

25 June 2012

The UK has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe with 126,494 divorces being granted in 2009, although this has been in decline since 1993. The figures show that a couple's prospects of a lasting marriage are bleaker in the UK than in any EU country. In sharp contrast Malta, a majority Catholic country, is the only EU country not to allow divorce. The only exception to the divorce ban is for Maltese who are married to foreigners or Maltese who are permanent residents abroad. However, following a referendum in May 2011, Parliament has adopted a law authorising divorce which is likely to come into force in October of this year. The law will make it possible for people who have been separated for four years to obtain a divorce. The passing of the law has created a rift in Maltese politics with the Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, a Catholic who campaigned against the introduction of divorce, voting against its introduction. Mr Gonzi stated that "I voted according to my conscience, and my conscience doesn't allow me to be a hypocrite or to declare myself in favour of something I don't believe in" Until now, couples could apply only for a legal separation through the courts or seek a Church annulment, a process, which would often take up to nine years. In the last decades many Maltese people had been travelling abroad to divorce in steadily increasing numbers. In the last 30 years, 785 Maltese couples divorced this way, with numbers gradually rising from seven in 1981 to 47 in 2010. Elsewhere, the only countries without provision for divorce are the Vatican and the Philippines. Gepp & Sons have a team of highly skilled solicitors' specialising in all areas of family law. To arrange a free initial consultation about your family law concerns, please contact Gepp & Sons Family Law Department on 01245 228106 or e-mail paynes@gepp.co.uk. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.