UK: Divorce - TV's Scottish Perspective

Last Updated: 27 May 2010
Article by Jeremy Abraham

Anybody home before 7.30pm yesterday may have caught ITV's Tonight programme on "Divorce: For Richer or Poorer", asking whether England and Wales' divorce laws are fair? Leaving aside the obvious answers that generally this is not what divorce law is about and that specifically the word is not to be found in s.25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the programme makers largely featured Michelle and Scot Young's divorce, currently proceeding in the High Court in London. Not an ordinary case that, by any one's standards. Michelle says that Scot is worth £400 million, that she wants her share and that until she gets it she will try to live in the manner to which she has become accustomed; Scot says he is worth -£27 million, that he now has a bankruptcy order to prove it, and that Michelle and their 2 daughters need to trim their sails to live at a standard that the State might have to subsidise. Not relevant to most of us, I hear you say. It is, though, an extreme illustration of everyday arguments fought out in our divorce courts, where the couple debate first what they are worth and second, how to divide it. Stereotypically, it's also the husband arguing down and the wife arguing up, as in Young.

Where did the programme take us? In a battery of female appearances, it called on Baroness Deech to reprise her role as a woman jousting against the stereotype, a task which she is doing, so far, with little sign of success. It also took us to Scotland, where things are different. They are not governed there by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 , but by the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985. That has some features that divorce lawyers south of the Border recognise and some they regard with the suspicion reserved for novelty.

From my scant knowledge of Scottish divorce law there are some significant differences. First, up there, if I owned something before we married, that remains mine, not yours, a position different in its definitiveness from that down here in London. Second, in Scotland, if my mum leaves me her estate that too remains mine not yours; we are moving that way here, but not in "needs" cases, which are most of those passing through the system. Third, if the asset was acquired during the marriage, regardless of whether it is in my name or yours, it is "matrimonial" (same here in the south)but valued at the date of separation not divorce, if it's in my name not yours, a position very different from that prevailing down here. Commonly, children's maintenance is dealt with by the same blighted CSA, or CMEC as it now prefers to be called, but spousal maintenance (called aliment up there, or ailment on one website I viewed) is treated differently.

But not every trip to Scotland ends happily, as the example in the programme showed. There, a wife and child moved to Scotland to join the estranged husband for a reconciliation, – just before he left again. The wife was faced with a much more hostile landscape of legal claims in divorce proceedings, started with suspicious alacrity by her husband in Scotland. By the end of those proceedings, the wife was had no doubt that she would have been more generously provided for down here in the south. If the programme gave a typical example, spousal aliment is allocated for a far shorter period and at a much less generous level (and no, I'm not making any jokes dwelling on stereotypical nationalistic attitudes). No rush to "joint lives" orders up there, but a much less generous rehabilitation period (commonly three years, I believe), and a different approach to assessing income, apparently. In the colder climes up north, my salary continues to be taken into account for aliment assessment purposes, but my bonus remains mine to keep. That was an important point, and given the UK's charitable approach to bankers' bonuses generally, will continue to have a significant impact in those cases where a bonus is a feature.

Oddly, in one for channel hoppers, the point about unhappy endings for some who trek to Scotland was re-iterated in a different context later that evening, in BBC2's "History Cold Case: Stirling Man", where a 1300s excursion north finished, probably, in another messy end.

I think that the programme makers missed an opportunity and that it was all just a bit too unbalanced. In terms of gender input, the programme was largely female in perspective. It might have benefitted from a brief glimpse into the case of Radmacher v Granatino, currently before the Supreme Court. There, a super rich wife is defending her wealth on the basis of a foreign pre-nuptial agreement, so far successfully. How would the court's attitude have differed in that case, had the husband been the wealthy target?

Secondly, there was no attempt at any sort of general comparison of English (and Welsh) differences with Scottish matrimonial provisions. For instance, although the Scots were condemned, by implication, for parsimonious provision for wives, no mention was made of the availability of a simplified divorce procedure for those who just want to get divorced and have no contested financial claims to bring against each other, an option sadly lacking down here. More glaringly, given the programme's context and social trends generally, nothing said of the fact that Scotland gives financial rights to co-habitants as well, a class that currently do not get a "look in" down here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.