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Divorce Law: Court blunder – error on thousands of FORM E’s

Thousands of couples who have settled their divorce in the last 20 months may
have to re-open negotiations because a critical fault has been found in software
to calculate financial terms – potentially inflating financial worth of a party

It is understood that over the period when the form was producing inaccurate
calculations just under 20,000 forms were downloaded.

One particular paragraph of the form, numbered 2.20, which is supposed to
produce totals, fails to reflect the minus figure of final liabilities
entered earlier on, producing a simple mathematical error. If a party had
significant debts or liabilities, they were not recognised or recorded on
the electronic form, potentially inflating their true worth. Distorted net
figures of applicants’ assets were therefore being produced.

Judgments and payment orders handed down by the family courts – even the
highest appeal courts – may have been founded on faulty information.

The discovery comes at a time when the senior judiciary and the justice
secretary, Michael Gove, are encouraging the development of online justice
as a means of improving courtroom efficiency and making further economies.

Software glitches are not unusual in major government IT projects.
Electronic forms have been used by HMCTS for some time but such a mistake is
relatively new for the justice system, which is only belatedly moving from
paper to computer.

Contact our divorce solicitors for advice to see if you are affected and how
we can help you.