Couples in Malta

Couples in Malta

Couples in Malta

1. Which law applies?

1.1. Which law is applicable to a couple´s property? Which criteria/rules are used to determine the applicable law? Which international conventions have to be respected with regard to certain countries?

For marriages concluded until 28 January 2019 and regarding immovable property, the lex rei sitae rule applies. This means that the property is subject to the law of the country in which it is situated.

Following the adoption of European Regulation (EU) 2016/1103 of 24 June 2016, new rules apply to determine the law applicable to all marriages concluded as from 29 January 2019 and to marriages concluded before the date of entry into force where the spouses have chosen a law applicable to their matrimonial regime as from 29 January 2019.

In the absence of choice of law, Article 26 sets out the hierarchy of connecting factors to determine the applicable law, as follows.
  • The spouses’ first common habitual residence after the conclusion of the marriage.
  • Failing that, the spouses’ common nationality at the time of conclusion of the marriage. This criterion cannot be used when the spouses have several common nationalities.
  • Failing that, the law of the State with which the spouses jointly have the closest connection at the time of conclusion of the marriage.

By way of exception and provided that one of the spouses so requests, in certain circumstances, the competent judicial authority may decide that the law of a State other than that of the first common habitual residence after the conclusion of the marriage shall apply (Art. 26.3).

1.2. Do the spouses have the option of choosing the applicable law? If so, by which principles is this choice governed (e.g. the laws to be chosen, formal requirements, retro-activity)?

Until 28 January 2019 there is no option for spouses to choose the law regulating their matrimonial property regime.

Regulation (EU) 2016/1103 provides for the possibility to choose the law of one of the States of which at least one of the spouses is a national or the law of the habitual residence of either spouse at the time of the choice as the law applicable to their matrimonial property regime (Art. 22). This choice may only be validly made as from 29 January 2019 within the framework of a marriage contract or an agreement on the choice of applicable law and in compliance with the formal requirements laid down in Article 23. In addition to the requirements laid down in Article 23, Maltese law provides that agreements in relation to matrimonial property regimes are to be done by authentic act before a Notary. Both parties will therefore need to appear before a Notary of their choice in Malta prior to celebration of marriage, who will draw up the relative authentic act with the parties choosing which law is to apply to their matrimonial property regime. Should the spouses wish to alter the default position under Maltese Law after celebrating their marriage, they will require authorisation from the Civil Court (Voluntary Jurisdiction Section) before they can draw up the relative authentic act before a Notary.

Usually, the choice of law applicable to the matrimonial property regime during the marriage will only have effect for the future. However,  if the spouses so specify in their marriage contracts, under Regulation (EU) 2016/1103 it is possible for such change in applicable law to apply retroactively. However, any retroactive change in the applicable law shall not adversely affect the rights of third parties deriving from that law.