The government has confirmed that more than 2,000 divorce cases may have been voided due to an error on the self-assessment form on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) website.
The error involves Form E, which records the financial details of divorcing couples. The software running the form didn’t take all liabilities into account and so may have produced misleading results in some circumstances.
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara told parliament that the mistake had affected 3,600 divorce cases. Just over 1,400 of these are still active so can be corrected before a final settlement is reached. However, 2,235 cases are closed and may now have to be reopened so settlements can be recalculated.
Mr Vara said there would be no court fee for couples applying to vary their order.
The error may have affected cases between April 2011 and January 2012, and between April 2014 and December 2015.
Mr Vara said: “The MoJ was alerted to the fault on 10 December 2015 and a corrected version of the form was put online on 14 December. However the wider implications of the faulty form were not immediately recognised.
“I have instructed HM Courts & Tribunal Service to write to all parties in the 2,235 closed cases. The letter expresses our sincere regret for the error, sets out what happened and explains 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 failure should not have happened. Divorce proceedings can be very difficult and I sincerely apologise for this situation and any distress it may have caused.”
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