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MoJ divorce form error may have created spate of unfair financial settlements

Ministry of Justice launches investigation to uncover the extent of the blunder

18 December 2015

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An error in the online financial assets calculation form (form E) which has been used for the last 20 months may be responsible for a spate of unfair financial divorce settlements.

The form does not provide a section to make a disclosure about debts and liabilities, leading to an inflated image of a person's assets.

Divorcing couples who used the form therefore may have had to commit to a settlement that is unfair, as the assets used to calculate the settlement will not be reflective of their assets in reality.

Carmel Brown, a family law solicitor at Thomas Eggar, has advised those with liabilities who have used the form to manually calculate the capital value of their assets, especially if they have large debts.

'This error of the MoJ's [Ministry of Justice] software is very basic but potentially catastrophic. In particular, it could seriously affect those people with large liabilities, including credit card debts, bank loans and tax liabilities, as the miscalculation would produce a wrong and misleading picture of their wealth.

'The figures in form E are relied on to calculate a husband and wife's assets before a fair settlement can be decided or achieved, and division of assets based on incorrect capital values of one or both parties could produce a very unfair settlement.'

The MoJ has launched an investigation into the blunder. At this point, there are no figures as to how many people have been affected and what the remedy process will be.

Brown suggests that cases will have to reopened, coming at a personal cost to the divorced parties.

'Those people affected by these mistakes may have to reopen their financial settlements in order to rectify these errors, which may be extremely costly and is particularly unfortunate given that a final financial order is supposed to provide parties with certainty and finality.'


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