An error in an online form on the Ministry of Justice website over-inflated the value of people’s property by failing to subtract debts and other liabilities from the total figure.
An expert in court processes Nicola Matheson-Durrant reported the error when her clients complained about this issue. The Ministry of Justice is now urgently investigating and estimating that up to 20,000 divorced couples are affected. They could be forced to return to court to renegotiate the terms of their separation.
The online version of “Form E”, a court form used by couples applying for a judge to resolve disputes over assets, contained a technical error. It requires each party to fill in details such as their salary and the value of property to get a total on which the settlement will be based.
Just over 130,000 couples a year get divorced in England and Wales. It is thought that only around half of them seek a court order to formalise the settlement of their assets. Most couples who get an order do so having agreed the settlement between them rather than asking a judge to decide.
What should you do if you think you are affected?
First of all, the issue concerns only people who were divorced in the period from April 2014 to 15 December 2015 and completed the form online, not manually. Check with your lawyers how the form was submitted and ask to re-evaluate your property/possessions. The officials will be writing to anyone affected as soon as possible and you can contact [email protected]
If your divorce settlement was based on a miscalculation of one or other spouse’s assets or income you should reopen the case before a judge.
The pressure on the family courts has more recently been increased by the knock-on effects of the effective abolition of legal aid in most divorce cases, a change driving increasing numbers of people to attempt to fight cases without legal representation.
The Telegraph Friday 18 December