What the divorce form error really means

Fri 18th Dec 2015

It has just been announced that an urgent investigation has been launched into a software error discovered in the Ministry of Justice’s online form used by divorcing couples in England and Wales.

We are told that the form was incorrectly providing totals for the last 20 months.

Should anyone who has obtained a Court Order resolving matrimonial finances in the last 20 months be worried? Certainly not if you’ve used SA Law as we do not use the Court’s version of the form and probably not for many other solicitors. But, if you are worried, you should check with your own solicitors.

Form E is a form used in most divorces as a method of providing financial information whether matters are being settled voluntarily or in Court proceedings.

BBC News suggests that solicitors and barristers have not “noticed” this error. This is most likely to be because they are simply not using this form. It is those representing themselves who may have used it.

Is it likely that many settlements will be affected? Form E is the starting point for both parties in providing financial information to the Court. It is correct that Form E automatically adds totals. The problem with the government form is that the calculation deducting the liabilities from the assets was not working correctly.

However, after Form Es have been provided, there are many steps before a case goes to trial. Both parties have to update their financial information and it would be surprising, during this updating process when schedules of assets and liabilities are being prepared and totalled quite separately to Form E, that incorrect totals from the original Form E would be carried forward. There may, of course, be some cases and anyone who has had a settlement following using Form Es from the government website may want to contact forme@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.