Doomed marriage, contracted for all the wrong reasons, declared null

The Family Court was told how the husband had married the plaintiff as he was desperate to escape his mother's financial demands, marrying a depressed widow whose mother accused her of 'living in sin'

A 26-year marriage of convenience between a man, desperate to escape his mother's financial demands, and a depressed widow who was criticised by her mother for "living in sin" with him, has been declared null on the grounds of simulation.

The woman had asked the court to declare her marriage null, explaining that she had been widowed after only two years of marriage, with a one-year-old child.

Her mother had suffered a stroke and her father had passed away only five months after her husband. She was going through a very tough time and would spend days asleep due to the tranquilizers she had been prescribed. She had no job and only had a widow's pension to live on.

Her mother had introduced the woman to the defendant and she had started dating him, partly in the hope of solving her financial problems.

The couple had exchanged vows a few months later.

The court had heard how the woman's mother had been pressuring her to tie the knot and “not live in sin any more,” while the man had been desperate to move out of his mother's house, as his mother expected him to hand over almost everything he earned to maintain his 14 siblings.

Problems had started almost immediately after the two were wed, with the husband becoming increasingly aggressive towards his wife.

He had told the woman that he had married her out of pity, to escape his prehensile mother and because of her mother's insistence, the court heard.

In a judgement handed down earlier today, Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro, presiding the Family Court, noted that the Courts had consistently held matrimonial consent to be different from that required to validly enter into other contracts.

“Parties to marriage must not only be endowed with the capacity to give that consent, but the consent must freely be given, in full knowledge of what the marital bond requires,” the judge observed.

For a marriage to be declared null, Maltese law requires that it be proven that the consent of at least one of the parties had been simulated, or partially simulated.

The court noted that the decision to fail to comply with one's marital obligations must be antecedent to the marriage for nullity to occur, otherwise it would only give rise to separation.

There was no doubt, the judge said, that the union was one of convenience. The applicant had contracted the marriage in the hope of solving her financial and other problems, whilst the defendant had done so only to escape from the clutches of his overbearing mother.

Although the couple had completed the marriage ceremony, they had internally and by a positive, voluntary act, excluded the essential obligations of married life.

The court said it felt that the parties had decided to press on with their wedding plans, despite knowing they were rushing things. These reasons, the court held, led to the total simulation of marriage and consequently, its nullity.