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UK Government Divorce Software Glitch

Reports emerged last week of a glitch with an online government divorce settlement form that may have affected as many as 20,000 people.

Nicola Matheson-Durant of the Family Law Clinic in Ascot, Berkshire spotted that some client’s financial calculations were wrong and she suspected that it may be due to a problem with their computers. On closer inspection she realised that the problem was with the government form. Form E is used to calculate the value of a divorcing husband or wife’s assets. Certain versions of Form E did not take into account debts and liabilities that has been entered into the form. This meant that in many cases a final total was calculated without the debts and liabilities having been subtracted, thus presenting an inflated calculation of an individual’s worth. This resulted in financial settlements based on inaccurate figures.

Ms Matheson-Durant reported the problem to the Ministry of Justice, who publicly admitted the fault last Thursday. The MoJ announced that the current online version has been corrected and appealed for anyone believed to be affected to get in touch.

Ms Matheson-Durant, who is a lay person legal expert called a McKenzie friend rather that a solicitor or barrister, commented, “Having discovered the fault and advised the MoJ, it became apparent that not a single solicitor, barrister or judge in the whole of the UK had noticed this error. It is such a critical fault. This form has been used in training so it will also have been seen by paralegals, university law departments and the Law Society.”

What Does This Mean for Divorcing Couples?

At this stage it is difficult to know how many people have been affected by the fault. The form was available since April 2014 and had been downloaded 20,000 times.

This form is normally used by couples who are calculating their own finances without the help of a solicitor. Matheson-Durant said, “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.”

She also recommended that people contact their solicitor or the MoJ if they have used Form E. Couples who have been affected may need to return to court to renegotiate the terms of their separation.

Contact Liverpool Divorce Lawyers

Financial settlement is arguably the most important aspect of divorce, and this story will undoubtedly make people feel nervous about the prospect of divorcing or separating without the help of a solicitor.

Family Law Liverpool are a team of experienced divorce lawyers who can support you through the entire process. Our dedicated and understanding solicitors appreciate that divorce is an extremely difficult time for a family. We are friendly, approachable and trusted local lawyers who fight hard for our client’s interests. Get in touch if you are thinking about separating from your spouse but are unsure what your options are.

Contact us by completing our online enquiry form.

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