The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has apologised for an online error which affected thousands of divorce settlements.
Shortly before Christmas, family lawyers uncovered a mistake on a form available to download from the MoJ’s website. The issue was with Form E, which provides a complete financial statement from each party in a divorce. The resulting data helps the family courts decide the fairest way to divide a couple’s assets.
However, between April 2014 and December 2015 the MoJ’s online version did not take liabilities into account, and this resulted in the overestimation of people’s wealth. The government has since found that 3,638 divorce settlements had been based on incorrect figures as a consequence of this error.
Earlier this week, Justice Minister Shailesh Vara announced that the government had sent letters of apology to divorcees whose settlements had been based on an incorrect final figure. The letters explained that “although Form E is just one part of the evidence used in their case, there remains a possibility that the error affected the final outcome”.
The Minister also announced that there would be no court fees for anyone who wishes to re-open their financial settlement. “This failure should not have happened”, he said, adding that going through a divorce “can be very difficult” even without financial errors. He apologised “for this situation and any distress it may have caused”.
The apology was welcomed by family law organisation Resolution. Chair Jo Edwards said that “the consequences [of the mistake] may be profound” for the people who have been affected, noting that two thirds of identified cases had already closed.
She warned that although court fees had been waived for people wishing to have their financial settlement re-opened, “fees will be incurred by those taking [legal] advice”.
Read the MoJ’s statement in full here.