The outcome of the referendum in Malta to introduce divorce to the island has been widely reported in the media recently.  Malta is the last EU state to introduce divorce and leaves the Philippines and the Vatican as the only places where divorce remains prohibited.

The intention of the Maltese parliament is to allow divorce if a couple has been separated for at least four years.  It is interesting to contrast this with the grounds for divorce in Scotland.  In Scotland there is really only one ground of divorce:  that your marriage has broken down irretrievably but there are four different ways to prove this.

The first two methods of proof make no reference to the time that a couple has been separated for.  If you can demonstrate that your spouse has committed adultery or that his or her conduct is such that it would be unreasonable to expect you to continue living with them, then you can raise an action for divorce straight away.  Unreasonable conduct must be such that it undermines the relationship, for example, the fact that your spouse trims his or her toenails in the living room while watching television would probably not be unreasonable conduct (although it would certainly be unpleasant). The other two methods of proof are time related:  either you must not have cohabited as a couple for one year if you both consent to the divorce or if both of you do not consent, a two year period of separation is needed.   

It can be seen that you can get rid of your spouse much quicker in Scotland than in Malta.  However, for many couples whose marriage has broken down, the priority is not being divorced but ensuring that the arrangements for their children and their finances are resolved.  In many situations, couples manage to come to an agreement about their children and finances and as a result the subsequent divorce action is a mere formality.