Back in December 2015 it emerged that the Ministry of Justice website, which offers a range of court forms to download and use online, had an error in the liabilities section of Form E, rendering calculations done on the website incorrect and meaning financial totals didn't take into account the party's debts.
An urgent investigation into the problem was ordered by Minister Shailesh Vara, and it transpired that 3,638 files contained the faulty calculator version of Form E with an incorrect net assets figure in the summary table. 1,403 of these cases were still live and so could be intervened in directly by HMCTS to flag up any error and they were instructed to write to all parties in the 2,235 closed cases.
It was believed the calculator problems ended here; however, the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has now announced in a letter to the Chair of the Justice Select Committee that a version of the Form E1 (used in financial applications under the Children Act 1989) also contained an incorrect formula which, like the Form E, meant that the automatic calculator in the form had calculated the wrong total for an individual's net assets by failing to deduct certain liabilities.
The investigation found that the faulty formula was present in the version of Form E1 available on the HMCTS Form Finder website between April 2011 and March 2012.
HMCTS has conducted a search on a set of 459 cases that have a record of a financial application or a reference to Form E1 having been filed during this period. Any Form E1s found were checked to see if they contained the calculation error, and, if so, whether the error was present. From this trawl, three Form E1s have been said to contain the calculation error.
Whilst the MoJ is confident they have identified the vast majority of cases that could have been affected by the error, anyone concerned about their case can write to them to have their case checked by using the email address set up for the previous issues: formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.
HMCTS have issued an apology to anyone affected, and will once again be writing to all parties in the three cases identified.
Officials are also consulting the President of the Family Division about the court rules and procedures that would apply to such applications or for any other proceedings that might be open to the parties and on the development of a specific form for such applications.
The current version of Form E1 now has the correct calculator functionality.
For regular information and news, our DIY Divorce page has useful guidance, links and sample forms. We also have a range of family forms including Forms E and E1 within AutoDocs in PracticePlus, our integrated online resource which brings together practice notes, flow charts, links to key commentary, legislation, forms and precedents.
The forms within AutoDocs have been developed by our PSL and technical teams, and are compiled using specialist software. They are not affected by the errors contained in the MoJ systems.
For any queries or for a free 14-day trial of PracticePlus, please contact our account management team on 0117 917 5134.