The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched an urgent investigation after an error was found in online divorce forms recording a couples’ financial details and could lead to thousands of divorced couples having their financial settlements renegotiated.
There are around 120,000 divorces in England and Wales each year and the error has apparently been on the form since April 2014. Not all divorcing couples used the online form, but the impact could be very widespread; during this period, as many as 20,000 forms were downloaded.
The error effectively means some debts are omitted, thereby exaggerating a person’s wealth.
The software has been miscalculating assets for the past 20 months and has been described as a “critical fault” that has gone unnoticed and may have led to inappropriate orders and settlements.
The error comes amidst calls for the justice system to speed up its move from paper to computer in an effort to join the digital age.
Don Bird, head of Atherton Godfrey’s Family department, said: “We and other solicitors around the UK, are shocked to learn that the MoJ was aware of this error and has done nothing to alert anyone. Judges may have approved a great many financial settlements based on false figures, and it is going to take some time to unravel the true extent of the damage that has been done.”
He added: “We do not use these forms but more reliable forms provided by an independent provider.”
Anyone concerned that they may have been affected can contact Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service by emailing formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.
If online forms have been used by your or your solicitor and you are worried about your own position we can advise further. Call 01302 320621 or email email@example.com