This month separating couples will be able to divorce in Malta for the first time if, as expected, its President endorses the decision made by its parliament on 25 July.
Malta is currently the only country in the EU where it is not possible to divorce and couples in Malta are limited to a legal separation or seeking divorce abroad.
The new law therefore represents a significant change for couples and also removes the anomaly which arose as a result of an EU regulation that prevented a divorce elsewhere in the EU if court proceedings for a legal separation had been started first in Malta.
In high value cases, this anamoly led to tactical maneouvrings as one spouse could prevent the other spouse from getting divorced if their financial demands were not met.
This tactic will be removed but, where couples have the option of divorcing in more than one EU state, the difference in procedure between the various EU states still means that one spouse can steal a march on the other by taking advantage of the rules. For example, some countries require a long period of separation before divorce proceedings can be commenced whereas in England proceedings can be started immediately if a spouse has behaved unreasonably or had an affair.
The difference in financial outcomes between EU states means that spouses will continue to ‘forum shop’ wherever they can.