We’re sure we’re not the only people of a certain generation who can’t hear about divorces and annulments without thinking of Mr Ross “Three Divorces” Gellar from Friends. However, as is the case for most things, we probably shouldn’t be basing our knowledge on the subject on an American sitcom made in the 90s. So, let’s explore the legal grounds for divorce if Ross had been living in Scotland.
Wife Number One
First up, it’s Carol Willick (who knew she had a last name?) In the pilot episode, it is revealed Ross and Carol have separated and are getting a divorce. Carol fell in love with Susan, although it’s never actually been confirmed if Carol and Susan’s sexual relationship did overlap with Carol and Ross’, even if it did the grounds for divorce wouldn’t be adultery as you might expect. Because Susan is of the same sex as Carol, the affair would be classed as unreasonable behaviour. That term covers a multitude of sins but basically, it means one of you has behaved in such a way that the other can no longer be reasonably expected to cohabit with them as husband and wife.
If Carol had cheated with a man, Ross could claim she had committed adultery. Adultery is (still) defined in Scottish law as intercourse with a member of the opposite sex (which also means same-sex spouses can’t use this as a basis for divorce). In practice, however, most people don’t go down this route, even if they could. If the other party won’t produce a sworn statement admitting to the adultery, you must provide the court with evidence, which usually means instructing a private detective to sit outside their house and take photos! Sounds expensive, is expensive.
Wife Number Two
“I Ross, take thee… Rachel.” It was shocking, it was genius, it was iconic. However, for Emily Waltham (another surprise surname), it was devastating. Although Emily decided to go through with the wedding anyway. But, after a few months decided she couldn’t trust Ross around Rachel and they decided to split.
However, on what grounds would they divorce? We find out Emily marries someone else just a few months later (good for Emily). She can’t have gotten married while still being married to Ross (this would be illegal, as well as a really bad idea) and Ross could only have consented to a no-fault divorce after they’d been split for a full year, so we’d assume Emily will have had to cite and prove “unreasonable behaviour” to get remarried so quickly. This all takes time, which is why we advise our clients to get their divorce sorted before they book the venue for wedding #2 (or 3, or 4…)
Wife Number Three
Ross and Rachel, the greatest will-they-won’t-they in sitcom history. When we do eventually see these two tie the knot, it’s not exactly traditional. Ross and Rachel get incredibly drunk and get married in Vegas. Given the circumstances amounting to the wedding and the fact they weren’t a couple they decided to have the marriage annulled. The concept of annulment doesn’t exist in Scottish civil law, but a court can be asked to declare a marriage as void – which would mean it never legally existed. If one or both of you was under sixteen at the time of the marriage, was already married, or you are close relatives, your marriage will be void. It would also be void if one of you consented to the marriage by mistake or as a result of duress – or was not capable of giving consent and/or understanding the nature of what you were agreeing to. However, this is one of the rare situations in Scottish family law where the place you got married is important – so if you tied the knot in Vegas after a few too many tequilas, you need to take specialist advice.
We do find out that Ross lies about getting the annulment though and they eventually divorce. Which we would guess Rachel could have cited “unreasonable behaviour” for.
Ross can… get divorced three times
To conclude, 2 out of the 3 divorces were most likely down to Ross’s unreasonable behaviour. Take from this what you will. (And if you decide to head down the aisle with the likes of Ross – we’d advise a prenup).