Divorce Form Error Could Have Led To Unfair Settlements

CWJ clients can rest assured that the recent urgent investigation launched after a software error was discovered in an online form used by divorcing couples does not affect them.

An error has only just been uncovered on the Ministry of Justice website which has been present since April 2014 and relates to the form which records couples' financial details and could mean thousands of financial settlements are based on incorrect calculations and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service is to contact those affected directly.

The mistake was in Form E on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) website and it was rectified earlier this month. We do not use the MoJ online form, so all of our client can rest easy in the knowledge that they are not affected by this error.

The mistake could mean some of those who have settled divorces in the past 20 months could have to re-open negotiations.

According to BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman it is not yet known how many people were affected, but that there are 120,000 divorces in England and Wales each year. He said: "Paragraph 2.20 of Form E, which is supposed to produce totals by adding assets and subtracting liabilities, has failed to take account of the liabilities entered earlier on, resulting in an error which inflates the party's wealth by ignoring their debts. If the error is not spotted and corrected the false figures will lead to incorrect and unfair settlements. That means that judges may have approved thousands of financial settlements and payment orders based on false figures. Unless the parties to the settlement accept these 'incorrect' settlements, they will have to be re-opened, presumably at the expense of the Ministry of Justice or the lawyers and professional advisors who failed to double check and pick up the errors."

Anyone concerned about their own court proceedings should contact formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk or seek independent legal advice.

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If you are a CWJ client this error will not affect you as we do not use the MoJ online form, indeed our software provider has confirmed that our online forms are unaffected in anyway.

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.