“A Very British Scandal”: The Duke and Duchess of Divorce

The BBC tv series, A Very British Scandal, was popular with viewers over the Christmas break.

We look at how the attribution of blame within divorce is highlighted in the infamous Argyll case and how it compares to the court’s approach today.

Presently, in circumstances where parties have been married for a year and one party (or both parties) wish to obtain a divorce as quickly as possible they must prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down as a result of the other party’s unreasonable behaviour or adultery. The government has now passed legislation that eradicates blame within divorce proceedings for those who wish to do so. The implementation date for the new legislation is 6th April 2022; our trainee solicitor, Emily Borghese, has reviewed the legislation in her blog, “Divorcing without blame.” Divorcing without blame: The government now commits to 6th April 2022 for the introduction of the ‘no-fault divorce’ Act. – Lux (luxfamilylaw.co.uk)

A Very British Scandal depicts how the Duchess of Argyll, accused of committing adultery with 88 men, is blamed for the breakdown of her marriage to the Duke of Argyll. However, the case was far from a simple accusation of adultery; the Duchess was vilified by the media and branded “a completely promiscuous woman” by Lord Wheatly the Judge who oversaw the case. The Duke sought to publicise and capitalise from the Duchess’ affairs and released inappropriate images of the Duchess, leading to many suggesting that the Duchess was the first victim of what is now known as “revenge porn” (which is now a criminal offence itself). The series highlights how archaic and destructive fault truly is within matrimonial proceedings.

The importance of where the fault lies for the breakdown of a marriage is largely redundant in divorce proceedings today. Adultery has no bearing on the financial agreement reached between the parties. The ground of divorce is arguably a tick box exercise in order to achieve finality. However, we understand that for many that an admission of adultery is the emotional closure needed to move forward. The government’s abovementioned no-fault divorce legislation reflects the notion that fault can often be a distraction and, in reality, plays a small part in the legalities of formalising divorce.

At Lux Family Law we always encourage clients to adopt a practical, sensible and conciliatory approach to divorce proceedings. Often there are children involved and “mud slinging” or apportioning blame becomes an unhelpful and often expensive distraction which can lead to irreparable damage to any future co-parenting relationship.

If you are considering a divorce or require any advice about your family circumstances, please get in touch with one of our specialist family lawyers who can advise you in all areas of family law.

Written by Molly Nicholls, Paralegal at Lux Family Law.