Government Glitch Causes 2000 Divorce Case Error

2nd February 2016

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Fiona Apthorpe, Head of Family, discusses the recent problems affecting many financial relief settlements in divorce cases.

Those going through divorce proceedings may have left their assets incorrectly calculated after a computer blunder.

The blunder by the Ministry of Justice involved an online form used by parties in a split to calculate their assets. Those involved in the 2,235 closed cases affected by the error may need to apply to court to reopen or renegotiate different divorce settlements, he said.

The error in the divorce form - Form E - was discovered at the end of last year but had been present on the Ministry of Justice website since at least April 2014. The error left debts out of its automated calculation of settlements.

The MoJ was alerted to the fault on 10 December 2015 and a corrected version of the form was put online on 14 December. However the wider implications of the faulty form were not immediately recognised.

Previously it was assumed the faulty formula was present only between April 2014 and December 2015, Vara revealed that the fault also affected cases between April 2011 and January 2012.

The investigation into the fault showed that of the 36,527 cases that used a version of the form, 10% (3,638) used the faulty calculator.

Part of the job of a good divorce solicitor is to check the information before it is used, as it is used and to check the 'results' to ensure the correct factual matrix is there. Likewise upon receiving the other sides documents, the calculations are checked, the figures scrutinised and confirmed.

The Government are now having to write to people who have been affected, there are over 2000. I have been contacted by a number of people affected or potentially affected to see what the can do. The first thing is we are checking the calculations for them and then if necessary, either seeking an agreed amendment with the other side and failing that, applying to court to re-open the affected case.

The whole thing is very unfortunate and I hope the Ministry of Justice fast track any problem cases so the anxiety and worry can be sorted out as quickly as possible.
For more on this story, please visit The Law Gazette.

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