What are the conditions required for a divorce?
The Family Court will grant a divorce if:
a) the parties have been separate for at least 4 years. This four year period includes de facto separation,
b) the children and the spouse are receiving adequate maintenance (if this is due), and
c) there is no prospect of reconciliation.
What are the steps to getting divorced?
If the conditions for divorce are met, either of the spouses may petition the court for a divorce. The parties may also file a joint application.
After receiving an application for a divorce the court will hold a court sitting. During this sitting, the court will ensure that the parties have been separated for at least 4 years and that there are no issues regarding maintenance. If all conditions for the divorce are met the court will either pronounce the divorce during that sitting or will pronounce the divorce during another court sitting. If the court finds that maintenance is still due, the court may give the parties time to regularise the matter and appoint the case for a future date.
Once a court pronounces the parties divorced, the judgment will be registered at the Public Registry. It is only then that the parties are once again free to contract marriage.
How long do divorce proceedings take?
An uncontested divorce will take between two to six months, depending on how long the presiding judge takes to appoint the case for hearing and how long the judge will take to deliver the divorce decision.
If a divorce is contested the law courts would have to hear both parties and examine whether there are any grounds at law on which the request for divorce can be refused. In such case, the matter could take up a number of months, usually depending on how cooperative the parties are.
Can an application for Divorce be opposed?
There are only 2 grounds for opposing a divorce. One may argue that the parties have not yet been separated, at least de facto separated, for 4 years. Another ground for opposing divorce is by proving that the children or the spouse are not receiving the maintenance established to be paid.
Divorce cannot be opposed on any other ground.
What is the Cost of a Divorce in Malta?
Although there are those who only forked out less than 400€ for a divorce, most people are usually billed around 1,000€ when filing for divorce in Malta. It is advisable to query your lawyer on how much the procedure will cost. A divorce application will surely involve:
a) Court fees. The court application itself usually costs between twenty to sixty euros, depending on the application, the legal procurator and notification costs. The divorce court application would have to be notified to the other party.
b) Lawyers' Fees for drafting the divorce application. This will depend on the lawyer. Some lawyers charge 140€, others charge more.
c) legal research. One's case may be more complicated than other and more research would be required.
d) collecting information. In order to be able to draw up the court application, the lawyer may need to perform research or incur expenses to collect information about the parties' separation and previous marriage. This research will add to the costs.
For this work some lawyer charge 50€ per hour, as per guidelines per chamber of advocates. Others may charge higher fees.
Costs relating to separation proceedings are to be kept distinct from costs relating to divorce.
Lawyers should be able to give their clients a proper indication of the divorce costs involved prior to them being engaged.
Is there a divorce application form in Malta?
There is no formal court application form that a married person has to fill in to apply for a divorce. The application has to be drawn up by the lawyer. The divorce application will include the details of the parties, the date of marriage, whether they have children, that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation and information that the couple have been de facto or de jure separated for at least 4 years. Finally, the application will ask the court to consider these facts and if it satisfied that the parties are entitled to a divorce accede to this request.
How to apply for divorce in Malta?
A divorce application has to be drafted and signed by a lawyer practising in Malta. It is then up to the Family Court to decide whether to accept the application or otherwise.
Does the law require me to have been separated for 4 years? Is there a way to shorten the time period?
Divorce requires that the parties have been separated for at least 4 years. The separation need not have been formalised, that is to say, a formal agreement of separation has been drawn up or a court judgment has been delivered.
The time period may not be shortened but the time period starts to elapse from the day that the parties are defacto separated. This means that the 4 year period starts to elapse from the date when the relationship effectively broke down.
What's the difference between annulment and divorce?
Parties may annul their marriage if they prove to the Family Court that when they contracted marriage they lacked an important condition for contracting marriage. For example, a marriage that is contracted solely for immigration purposes can be annulled, because the parties do not intend to get married but only to enable one to stay in a country. A marriage contracted by a spouse who did not understand the importance of fidelity can also be annulled.
Divorce, unlike annulment, does not require parties to prove that at the time of their marriage either or both of the parties did not have the essential capacity to contract marriage, or there was a defect in the ceremony. Divorce can be applied for by all those who are married, provided they have been separated for at least 4 years.