Divorce is one of the most stressful times people can go through. Settlements can take months or even years to be finalised. So what would happen if you found out the settlement was incorrect due to a computer glitch? In recent times this is exactly what happened.
The glitch occurred in an online government form submission. The problem was uncovered by a family law specialist called Nicola Matheson-Durrant. She emphasised that this did not affect all recent claims but did advise that couples check this.
The glitch is said to have affected claims submitted in the last 20 months. The specific form was Form E from the Ministry of Justice (specific paragraph 2.20) and the result was that debts were not included in the automatic calculations of the divorce settlements.
It should be emphasised that this mainly occurred with couples who handled their own divorce. Solicitors usually use different forms of software for their financial calculations.
However, this goes further than a software issue- as the calculation of assets is a key part of the process. It is also worth pointing out this would not be the case if people printed out the form and handwrote it as opposed to submitting it online.
Another complication is that now a number of divorce cases will have to be reopened. While it is not known exactly 12,000 divorces come up each year so it is likely to be a proportion of that number.
While the courts are looking to contact people potentially affected the advice is for them to contact them directly or to seek legal advice.
Moral of the story
Essentially this highlights a problem that has occurred in recent years – people using templates in order to draw up contracts. In this instance, it is something that they couldn’t have foreseen – a glitch in the system creating complications.
While it is possible to do this yourself and avoid this kind of issue (for example handwriting rather than submitting online) you can’t always be sure that you can completely avoid these particular problems.
This is why it is better to use a qualified and experienced legal professional rather than rely on a template. It may be that you need them to quickly check over a form. But even doing it on this simple level can allow you to avoid signing something that does not legally work or will cause problems further down the line.
Divorce is something that is already difficult, stressful and emotional. Getting to a point where you reach an agreement can be hard enough. To then find that agreement is not binding due to a computer error could add further stress and complications.
If you are concerned that this glitch has affected you or you want to be sure that your divorce agreement is binding then it is best to speak with a professional. While it may involve some costs in the short term it is better to do this than avoid more stress, complications and further costs in the long term. Contact us today on 023 9244 8100 and we will be happy to offer you advice and support.