Malta holds out against divorce through EU back door

Proposed new European Union laws which are meant to facilitate cross-border divorce proceedings are being studied closely in Malta, the last EU state that does not permit divorce.

The Times of Malta reports that Malta is taking a cautious approach on proposals published in Brussels on Monday meant to improve legal certainty in cross-border divorce proceedings.

During a briefing session, a EU Commission official who drafted the regulations repeatedly insisted that the proposed rules should in no way affect the prevailing situation in Malta where divorce is not allowed.

However, sources close to the government said Malta is studying "in great detail" the text to make sure divorce is not introduced on the island "through the back door."

The Commission is proposing to introduce harmonised rules on applicable law and to revise existing jurisdiction rules in divorce matters. The aim is to enhance legal certainty and flexibility for couples involved in international divorce proceedings within the EU.

The proposals increase flexibility by allowing spouses a limited possibility to choose applicable law and a competent court and ensure access to court for EU citizens living in third countries.

One of the main proposed changes will allow a couple living in a different member state other than that where they had originally married to obtain a divorce in their new country of residence under the rules of their original marriage.

Asked to state whether the new rules will also have to be applied by a Maltese court, the Commission official said Malta is an exception and, thus, the proposed rules will not apply.

"The Maltese scenario is special as the law does not allow divorce. Thus, a Maltese court does not have any jurisdiction in divorce matters. The courts have jurisdiction only in matters of legal separation. It will, therefore, not affect the current state of Maltese law.

"A foreign couple would have to go to another member state if they want a divorce while living on the island," the official said.

Malta is the only EU member state that does not permit divorce. Poland and Ireland, both staunch Catholic countries, have introduced a divorce law, but in a very restrictive format.

Malta cautious over EU divorce proposals (Times of Malta 18/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
European Malta Centre

Maltese choose cross for euro coin (CathNews 19/6/06)
Former top canonist says divorce is not sinful (CathNews 16/1/06)

19 Jul 2006