When involved in divorce proceedings (or dissolution, nullity or judicial separation proceedings) concerning finances couples have to fill in a very long form called a Form E. This is intended to be a complete disclosure of the parties respective financial positions (i.e. assets and liabilities). Parties and courts make final decisions and orders on financial settlements based on this disclosure. If it is substantially wrong i.e. there would have been a different outcome if the true facts were known, it is possible for any final court order to be set aside.
There is an online form for this purpose which calculates certain totals of individual figures. If using a solicitor the solicitor will usually provide the hard copy form but for those acting without solicitors the online form is often used.
At the end of last year it was discovered that there was a problem with the online software, which had existed since about April 2014, which resulted in the form containing inaccurate figures. This was corrected on 14 December 2015. However, it was then discovered that the error could also have affected cases between between April 2011 and January 2012.
In January 2016 the Ministry of Justice announced that this affected 3,638 couples and has potentially voided about 2,235 settlements, as 1403 cases were still live. Justice minister Shailesh Vara MP wrote that some parties may want to set aside or vary their order and that there would be no court fee for making such an application. He also said: ‘I have instructed HMCTS 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 Ministry have said “Anyone concerned about their own court proceedings should contact
(Advise (sic) regarding a faulty divorce form E (Financial Statement):