The debate on divorce legislation in Malta

When commenting on the issue of divorce, Martin Scicluna (February 23) declared "Every possible objection to the introduction of divorce legislation in Malta was addressed head-on and found wanting".

In his article The Politics Of Divorce (February 19) Michael Brigulio, chairman of Alternattiva Demokraika, stated that "separation is on the rise in Malta for various reasons, including economic stress and institutional factors". So he suggested the introduction of divorce in Malta.

Joseph Muscat, Leader of the Opposition, in the conference on marriages, lately, quoted the increase in the number of civil marriages and seems to have suggested that this is another good reason for the introduction of divorce in Malta.

If these, instead, were talking about physical ill-health, surely, first, they would have promoted curative and preventive medical services to restore sick people to good health, and prevent others from falling sick, and not clamour for the provision of coffins to eventually bury the dead.

They failed to make reference to the importance of providing curative social services, like marriage counselling, psychotherapy and family therapy to married couples in distress.

To his credit Dr Muscat did advocate enhanced marriage preparation and educational services as an investment in sound marriages. Mr Scicluna and Mr Brigulio did not. I am not sure I heard the Church make loud noises about the need to expand marriage reconciliation services either.

Some years back the government saw the validity and utility of marriage reconciliation services and had in mind to enact legislation to make it mandatory to all married couples, when opening a separation case in the family court, to go for marriage counselling to tentatively restore the marital relationship. Unfortunately, the government's efforts were derailed by powerful and aggressive lobbying and the whole thing ended with the court making it mandatory to litigating married couples to go for mediation, not reconciliaton, services.

Effectively they were offered only the professional assistance of a mediator to help them reach an amicable agreement on the division of their assets, including the care and custody of their children, when separating for good. The mediator is not there to help them reconcile their differences.

The government and the opposition, together, should dig their heels in the ground and resuscitate, through effective legislation, and without further delay, the mandatory provision of marriage counselling, psychotherapy and family therapy services for litigating married couples when they go to court. They should also promote resort to these services before the litigating couples go to court.

The government should also introduce mandatory marriage preparation courses for civil marriages as Dr Muscat very rightly insisted during the conference on marriages.

When commenting on Tiger Woods's gross infidelity to his wife, which is one of the main reasons for the breakdown of marriage, Phil Wahba, columnist of The Sunday Times (February 21), suggested that "Ultimately Woods may be better off waiting to finish his therapy to learn how to tame his temptations, and put his family life in order". Tiger Woods is the world's top golf player and his brand name is worth $100 million a year.

When the affair became public, upon reflection, he went for therapy and his wife did not go for divorce.


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