The topic of divorce in Malta, and certain restrictions related to it, has found itself once again being used as a political football between the political leaders of the nation.
Earlier this week, the Nationalist Party and PN leader Bernard Grech called for a reform on divorce, including certain specific facets such as how the monthly allowance is calculated and reforming the Family Courts.
Grech, himself a former prominent anti-divorce campaigner, said: “We need a reform of the laws covering divorce and domestic violence. We are in politics to serve and better the quality of people’s lives.”
One of the most common issues with Malta’s divorce laws, which came into fruition in 2011, is that couples must show that they’ve been separated for four years before they can get divorced, oftentimes severely slowing down the divorce process.
However, when Prime Minister Robert Abela was asked what was taking so long to begin reforming the laws, he had a very pointed answer.
“The idea to remove the restriction that you need to be separated for four years before you apply for a divorce, I myself mentioned it a number of weeks ago,” Abela said.
Calling the four-year requirement “unjust and causing pain to many families,” Abela broke down what was taking so long.
“I am honestly surprised by the Opposition Leader’s words yesterday, as if to say the government has slept on this issue that I myself had mentioned,” he said.
“I can tell him why it took weeks before we moved forward with this process: it is because we had to seek advice after advice after we found that in the law, there’s a footnote that was put in to satisfy the wishes of those who thought like him, way back in 2011, that states that to remove this four-year obligation, another referendum is needed,” Abela said.
Abela said a new draft of the law would be presented during the next Cabinet meeting this Wednesday.
“The government needed to get all the requisite legal advice first so we can remove this four-year obligation without going for a referendum. This is what people like Bernard Grech got us into in 2011 when they didn’t want to give people going through difficulties in their personal life and marriages a new opportunity,” he said.
To get a divorce in Malta as it stands, you need to show that you’ve been separated for four years, though that separation does not necessarily need to formalised by a court. The four-year clause had been a key element in the 2011 referendum, which saw 53% of voters support the new right against 46% who were against divorce being legal in Malta.