International Divorce & Family Law: Malta
As international family lawyers we sometimes act for clients who are getting divorced and who have some legal connection to Malta. One spouse may be from Malta for example or the marriage may have been celebrated there. Alternatively the couple may have resided in Malta during the marriage. Part of our role in situations like this is to highlight aspects of Maltese family law with which our clients may be unfamiliar. These may have a significant bearing on the outcome of the divorce.
Below, we outline some notable aspects of the Maltese family law system.
Maltese Divorce Requirements
The Maltese government legalised divorce as recently as 2011 but the grounds on which couples can seek a divorce in Malta are limited. Most importantly it’s not possible to apply for a Maltese divorce unless, at the time proceedings begin, the couple has been separated for at least four of the previous five years. This is a considerably longer period than that specified in most other countries. Maltese courts will also want to be satisfied that there is no prospect that the couple might reconcile before granting a divorce. Finally all maintenance that is due must be paid before finalisation of a Maltese divorce.
Finances And Maltese Divorce
The default position for property ownership between married couples in Malta is the so-called community assets regime. Essentially this means property acquired during the marriage is owned jointly. It’s divided equally on divorce. Other property is deemed separate. Couples can elect to vary this approach by contract (usually in a pre or post nuptial agreement).
Maintenance Payments In Malta
Divorce doesn’t remove the obligation under Maltese law for one spouse to pay maintenance to the other spouse and to any minor children. The courts will consider a number of factors when deciding what maintenance is due, including the needs of the spouse receiving maintenance and the amount that spouse receives in social security and other benefits.
Some commentators believe that spousal maintenance is becoming more difficult to obtain in Malta because of the increasing number of families where both parents work. They argue that even a spouse in part-time work may struggle to obtain the level of maintenance he or she believes is appropriate.
Getting Advice On Maltese Divorce
If more than one country has jurisdiction to decide your divorce you should get legal advice early on. Usually the spouse who starts proceedings can choose the country where the divorce will be heard.
Given the four year separation requirement for divorce in Malta you may be able to divorce more quickly in the UK if you notify your spouse that you want a divorce here (by serving a UK divorce petition on him or her). Depending on the circumstances, financial orders in relation to property and maintenance may also look considerably different depending on the country your divorce is decided in.
At Brookman we advise Maltese nationals, UK nationals and individuals with other connections to Malta seeking a UK divorce.
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