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New law: Former spouses and civil partners may have overpaid their ex after software error in online form

Divorcing spouses who used Form E on the Ministry of Justice website to help calculate financial settlements, should consider taking advice after a software error was found in it which may have reduced the amounts that should have been paid to their ex spouse/civil partner.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - January 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

Form E is an online financial statement used when applying for a financial order in a divorce in the courts in England and Wales (or when applying for financial relief after an overseas divorce). A financial order is a court order that sets out how the spouses will divide up the assets of the marriage, such as property, pensions, savings and pensions, and any maintenance payable.

When Form E is completed online, it automatically calculates a person’s net assets for the purposes of working out a financial settlement between the parties. Form E is also used to help work out financial settlements on dissolution of a civil partnership, on annulment of a relationship, and on a judicial separation (a process of separation falling short of a divorce).

It is most often used by those who are handling their own divorce or dissolution, although some solicitors also use the form on behalf of their clients.

A mistake in the form meant it did not take debts or liabilities entered by a user into account when calculating their net assets. Parties with debts or liabilities therefore ended up with an inaccurate net asset figure. If their debts or liabilities were significant it could mean that any financial settlement agreed with their former spouse or civil partner were based on a wrong assessment of their net assets and may need to be revisited.

The Courts and Tribunal Service are contacting everyone who has downloaded Form E, but anyone who wants to check whether they are affected can email the Service at formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.

Anyone affected should consider taking specialist legal advice about what to do next.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Former spouses and civil partners making and receiving payments under financial settlements calculated using net asset figures in Form E, should investigate whether they are paying or receiving the right amounts, and consider taking legal advice if they are not

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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