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Malta grants first divorce since passing historic law

Back in July, we wrote about the historic law passed in the nation of Malta which, for the first time in the country’s history, made divorce a legal option for its citizens. Now, a couple who began living separately more than 20 years ago has become the first to be granted a legal divorce under the new law.

In contrast to the relatively accepting view of divorce that is now the norm in Nevada and throughout the United States, the historically Catholic nation of Malta has resisted internal and external pressure to legalize divorce for several decades. Prior to the passage of the new divorce law, Malta residents were forced to travel to nearby countries in order to obtain a divorce. As a result, less than 800 married Malta couples have successfully divorced one another in the past 30 years.

Following a special referendum in which 53 percent of Malta citizens voted to legalize divorce, the Malta parliament enacted a law allowing legal divorce in July. The law, which requires that couples have been separated for four of the past five years, took effect earlier this month. At the time, family law attorneys voiced their concern that Malta family courts did not have adequate resources to deal with what would likely be an increased demand for court services. So far, however, the court appears to be sufficiently staffed.

Last week, a Malta couple who has been living apart for more than 20 years became the first couple to be granted a divorce under the new law. Because the couple’s children are now adults, there were no issues over child custody or support, and the court granted the wife’s request to revert back to her maiden name.

Source: The Times of Malta, “Court grants first divorce,” Oct. 22, 2011

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