Divorce form error
Divorced couples in the Uk may be forced to return to court to renegotiate their separation after it emerged a Government software error may have altered the terms of their settlement.
As reported by the Independent, the software glitch has affected “Form E” – an online form filled in at the end of divorces that details divorcee’s finances.
The software glitch is believed to have altered the financial calculations of 20,000 people who filled out the form while seeking separation.
The error failed to subtract financial liabilities, such as debt, from the asset calculations, potentially leading to an inflated total worth.
The issue came to light after Nicola Matheson-Durrant of the Family Law Clinic in Ascot noticed issues with her client’s figures.
According to the Independetnt, Ms Matheson-Durrant told the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) about the error, who have been thought to be miscalculating assets since April 2014.
“It is only about litigants in person, people who haven’t got solicitors, and people who have used solicitors who have used that particular version of the Form E – there are other versions which don’t have this error,” Ms Matheson-Durrant told the BBC.
“The problem arises if you have filled the form in, using that form and filled in all the boxes and let the form calculate for you and summarise all the totals for you.
Divorce form error only applies to you if you use the software
“If you have printed the form out yourself and handwritten the information in, that isn’t where the problem is, obviously.
BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said it was 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.”
A HMCTS spokesman said: “Officials are taking steps to identify rapidly cases where this regrettable error may have had an impact, and we will be writing to anyone affected as soon as possible.
“Anyone concerned about their own court proceedings should contact formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.”