By virtue of the recent amendments to the Maltese Civil Code, brought about by Act XIV of 2011, divorce in Malta was introduced as a legal remedy which may now be claimed before the Courts of Malta. Heavily influenced by the ‘Irish model’ of divorce legislation, such amendments, in effect, carry with them a number of underlying legal implications stemming from their strategic placement within what is, essentially, a litigious-based personal separation system. Indeed, by virtue of these amendments, the legislative provisions regulating personal separation and divorce would now appear to be inextricably interlinked, with separation proceedings, possibly, serving as a prelude to the initiation of divorce proceedings in Malta.
Under the new Maltese divorce legislation, an aggrieved spouse may file an application before the Maltese Courts, asking for a judicial pronouncement of divorce if the spouses in question have been legally separated for at least four years or have lived apart for a period of, or periods that amount to, at least four years out of the immediately preceding five years. Alternatively, the spouses may file a joint demand for divorce after having reached a consensual agreement that their marriage is to be dissolved. In these circumstances, the Maltese Court must be satisfied that there exists no reasonable prospect of reconciliation between the spouses and that all of their children are, as a matter of fact, receiving adequate maintenance. The new divorce legislation in Malta also caters for the conversion of separation suits into divorce proceedings, subject to proof relating to satisfaction of the necessary preconditions associated with the pronouncement of divorce. Within this context, mediation proceedings would appear to play a more prominent role in relation to attempts at reconciling spouses who are not already legally separated, or who are not parties to a suit of personal separation, thus, also acting as the appropriate forum for negotiations conducive to the pronouncement of divorce on the basis of an agreement entered into voluntarily by the parties.
In this vein, the intricacies surrounding the regulation of maintenance awards, as well as their possible conditioning of the Maltese divorce proceedings as a whole will, undoubtedly, provide fertile ground for the gradual judicial development of structured principles apt to provide greater consistency and stability. Within this context, specialised legal advice is clearly of the essence in choosing between the carefully-constructed routes now available under Maltese law.
Our legal team enjoys vast experience in dealing with contentious family law matters and, while embracing the challenges brought about by the recent legislative amendments regarding divorce in Malta, looks forward to providing the necessary individual attention essential to the fulfilment of each client’s personal expectations.