The potential perils of failing to get expert legal advice when settling financial arrangements following divorce has again been demonstrated, this time following a failure by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) itself.
Solicitor Nicola Matheson-Durrant spotted a mistake with the online Form E on the MoJ website. Although now rectified, any couple who relied upon the Form E over the past 20 months could face the prospect of what they thought was a binding agreement having to be reopened, because the automatic calculations carried out online were in fact wrong.
Form E contains full details of the parties’ financial resources and usually forms the basis for decisions about how assets are divided. Section 2.20 of the form is supposed to provide accurate totals of the parties’ net assets. This is done by automatically adding all of the assets and subtracting the liabilities, giving a net asset figure. Unfortunately, the online form failed to subtract some of the liabilities and so a party’s wealth could have been inflated, with debts wrongly ignored.
Divorcing couples who chose to employ solicitors will have been unaffected by this error and, more particularly, will have had access to expert advice about how to deal with what are often complex issues involving property, pensions and, for those more fortunate, substantial saving.
The wish by some to save costs by choosing to do a Do It Yourself divorce may in fact have backfired and could have cost them many thousands of pounds, and mean they may now face deals being opened up, which they previously thought were binding.
The moral of the story is, perhaps, that when dividing assets on divorce, it is a brave, or maybe unwise, individual who does not seek legal advice.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised above or discuss your situation generally, please contact a member of our Family team.